The Latest: DOT head urges haste in rail safety upgrades

AMARILLO, Texas – The Latest on the head-on train collision in the Texas Panhandle (all times local):

6 p.m.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is urging the railroad industry “to move as fast” as it possibly can to put new safety technology called positive train control systems into operation.

His comments Wednesday came a day after two BNSF Railway freight trains collided head-on when their crews found themselves on the same track in the Texas Panhandle. Two crew members were killed, another is missing and presumed dead, and another was injured in the crash.

Positive train control, or PTC, relies on GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor train positions and automatically slow or stop trains that are in danger of colliding, derailing due to excessive speed or about to enter track where crews are working or that is otherwise off limits. BNSF has pledged to meet a 2018 federal deadline to adopt the technology, but least three freight railroads have said they’ll need an extension to 2020.

Foxx told reporters in Washington said any collision is “a terrible event” and “ones that technology could have helped us avoid remind us how critical it is to get this technology in place.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.


4 p.m.

Remains have been found of two crew members missing since the head-on collision of two freight trains in the Texas Panhandle.

BNSF Railway spokesman Joe Faust made the grim disclosure Wednesday afternoon. He said one crew member is still missing after the Tuesday wreck outside the town of Panhandle, about 40 miles northwest of Amarillo.

Another crew member was hospitalized with injuries that were not life-threatening after he was injured in jumping from one of the trains before impact.

Work crews continue to pick through the tangled and smouldering wreckage of the smashed locomotives and rail cars.


1:30 a.m.

Crews are expected to work into the night fighting a blaze at the scene of a train collision in the Texas Panhandle where three people are missing.

Floodlights were brought to the crash site near the town of Panhandle late Tuesday night. Flames were blocking efforts to search the wreckage for the missing crew members.

The two BNSF Railway freight trains were on the same track Tuesday when they collided. BNSF spokesman Joe Faust says each train carried two crew members; one man jumped before the collision. He was in stable condition at a hospital.

The collision caused freight cars and containers to derail.

The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation, and the Federal Railroad Administration said it has investigators on site.