NTSB looks to cause of Amtrak derailment

| Wednesday, July 31, 2002

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said 96-degree weather might have been a factor causing the derailment of an Amtrak train in Kensington, MD July 29.

Of the 176 people on board, 97 were treated at hospitals. Officials said six of them were seriously injured.

According to news reports, the engineer stopped to avoid hitting a "bulge" on the tracks that may have been caused by excessive heat. The train's engineer will be tested for drugs and alcohol use, as is routine.

The accident comes as Amtrak is trying to emerge from its worst budget crisis in its 31-year history. The private company recently required federal help to close a $200 million budget gap that threatened to close the railroad.

Amtrak has struggled to maintain full service this year because nearly 100 of its cars and locomotives are damaged and out of service. Low on cash, Amtrak has not been able to get the cars back on the tracks.

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