NTSB to speak to NJ Transit engineer, examine tracks, signals

NTSB Vice Chairman T. Bella Dinh-Zarr says the agency plans to speak with train conductor Timothy Gallagher on Friday.

- A police officer stood outside the Morris Plains, New Jersey, home of New Jersey Transit engineer Thomas Gallagher, where he and his family reside. The officer was not allowing media to get close.

Neighbors told Fox 5 that Gallagher is a family man who loves his job. His neighbors spoke highly of him. The husband and father of two teenage daughters has worked for New Jersey transit for 29 years. He started as an engineer about 18 years ago.

Gallagher was pulled from the mangled first car and was hospitalized but was released Thursday evening. Neighbors say they have not seen him at his home.

How did this deadly accident happen? A lot of Answers will come from the engineer, who is cooperating with authorities. The NTSB will examine Gallagher's performance, the condition of the train tracks and signals, and mechanical issues among other things.

The NTSB also plans to look into whether positive train control could have helped. PTC is a system designed to prevent accidents by overriding the engineer and automatically slowing or stopping trains that are going too fast. The NTSB has been recommending PTC for 40 years.

None of New Jersey Transit's trains is fully equipped with PTC. Rich Barone, vice president for transportation of Regional Plan Association, said a 2015 federal mandate for positive train control was not met and was extended to 2018. Barone said it is too early to speculate what went wrong but said human error, equipment failure, or even the lack of technology could be to blame.

Trains like the one involved in the accident are equipped with a system referred to as dead man. If something medically happens to the engineer, this system would kick in eventually stop the train if the engineer goes 15 to 20 seconds without touching the controls. 

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