(Sandersville, Georgia – August 7, 2015)
Four Norfolk Southern railroad employees suffered serious injuries and were all hospitalized after the two trains they were operating collided on single track in the area of Sunhill Grange Road and Highway 242 just southeast of the Washington County community of Sandersville, GA at about 1:15 P.M., EDT Friday afternoon.
The two trains involved included an Atlanta-emanating eastbound train loaded with overseas containers headed for the Port of Savannah, GA, and a westbound local train servicing industries and other rail customers in the Washington County area.
The collision, which occurred in 49 mph timetable speed territory which sees a daily average of 15 trains across its single track route, resulted in the derailment of three locomotives, one of which was effectively destroyed, and at least four rail cars, and sent two crew members to Georgia Regents General Hospital in Augusta, GA via life flight helicopter and another two to a local hospital in Sandersville via ground ambulance.
The collision, which is under investigation by both railroad and governmental agency officials, pointed out the continued need for on-time institution of the 2008 federally-mandated Positive Train Control system, which is supposed to be operational by year’s end, and which utilizes a GPS, satellite, computer-generated safety system designed to prevent collisions such as occurred Friday.
Yet, only a few railroads – which does not include Norfolk Southern – plan to launch their systems by the time the bi-partisan Railway Safety Act of 2008 says they are supposed to.
An Associated Press story by AP Writer Joan Lowy published earlier Friday morning pointed out that the railroad industry has successfully lobbied for legislation introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, to delay the deadline for another five to seven years.
The AP story mentioned that none of Norfolk Southern’s 3,400 locomotives – including those involved in Friday’s crash – had thus far been equipped for PTC operation, and that only Burlington Northern Santa Fe, among the Nation’s Class I rail carriers, had its engines ready for the safety system changeover.
However, Ms. Lowy’s article also stated that “Support for a lengthy extension diminished after accident investigators said the May 12 Amtrak crash, which killed eight people and injured about 200 others, could have been prevented if PTC had been in operation.”
Her article was tragically timely, given Friday’s collision.