Bourbonnais Derailment Summary Report

Collision of National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak)
Train 59 With a Loaded Truck-Semitrailer Combination at a
Highway/Rail Grade Crossing in
Bourbonnais, Illinois
March 15, 1999

NTSB Number RAR-02/01
NTIS Number PB2002-916301

To read, or save to disk, the NTSB official 77 page report in PDF format:

Executive Summary:
About 9:47 p.m. on March 15, 1999, National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) train 59, with 207 passengers and 21 Amtrak or other railroad employees on board and operating on Illinois Central Railroad (IC) main line tracks, struck and destroyed the loaded trailer of a tractor-semitrailer combination that was traversing the McKnight Road grade crossing in Bourbonnais, Illinois. Both locomotives and 11 of the 14 cars in the Amtrak consist derailed. The derailed Amtrak cars struck 2 of 10 freight cars that were standing on an adjacent siding. The accident resulted in 11 deaths and 122 people being transported to local hospitals. Total Amtrak equipment damages were estimated at $14 million, and damages to track and associated structures were estimated to be about $295,000.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the collision between Amtrak train 59 and a truck tractor-semitrailer combination vehicle at the McKnight Road grade crossing in Bourbonnais, Illinois, was the truckdriver’s inappropriate response to the grade crossing warning devices and his judgment, likely impaired by fatigue, that he could cross the tracks before the arrival of the train. Contributing to the accident was Melco Tranfer, Inc.’s failure to provide driver oversight sufficient to detect or prevent driver fatigue as a result of excessive driving or on-duty periods.

The safety issues addressed in the report are:

As a result of this investigation, the Safety Board makes safety recommendations to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Railroad Administration, all class I and regional railroads, Amtrak, the International Association of Fire Fighters, and the International Association of Fire Chiefs.