TEXAS--Tarantula Crash Update...

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Tarantula had faulty brake, inspectors say

But officials haven't determined whether that played role in crash near Stockyards

03/18/2000 By Dianna Hunt / The Dallas Morning News

FORT WORTH - Federal investigators found an inoperative hand brake and handhold on the Tarantula Train engine but are not sure whether they contributed to a collision Wednesday with another train, officials said Friday.

"I can't tell you if that was because of the crash or it happened after the crash," said Pamela Barry , a spokeswoman for the Federal Railroad Administration, which is investigating the crash.

Tarantula Train officials did not return calls Friday.

FRA investigators also will look at the drug and alcohol screening procedures for the Tarantula Train crew, though Ms. Barry said that does not mean investigators think drugs or alcohol were involved. The FRA requires railroad companies to have pre-employment drug and alcohol screening and random testing for employees, she said.

Investigators are examining whether the train's engineer, Dennis Larson - who also is the company's director - had proper credentials to navigate the train, Ms. Barry said.

Mr. Larson has not returned phone calls.

They also are investigating whether train crews properly communicated with each other, how fast the trains were going and whether the brakes operated properly, she said.

On Monday, officials expect to investigate details from the so-called event recorder - much like a black box on an airplane - that recorded mechanical events on the freight train, but not human voices. The Tarantula was not required to have an event recorder, she said.

The Tarantula was temporarily idled Friday but could resume its route Sunday if a replacement locomotive passes federal inspections, Ms. Barry said.

The Tarantula - a popular tourist attraction that was filled with families on spring break - collided Wednesday with a tank car and derailed, injuring more than 30 of the 148 people on board. None of the injuries was serious.

The train was returning to the Fort Worth Stockyards after a 1-hour trip to Eighth Avenue in south-central Fort Worth when it struck the freight train on a blind curve.

The vintage train runs between Grapevine and Fort Worth once daily.


-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), March 18, 2000

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