HOBOKEN, N.J. (WTXF/AP) - New Jersey Transit trains have been involved in more than 150 accidents that caused more than $4.8 million in damage to tracks or equipment since 2011, and the commuter rail has paid more than $500,000 to settle safety violations, according to federal data.
Federal Railroad Administration information shows that NJ Transit settled 183 safety violations -- ranging from employee drug and alcohol use to violations of railroad operating rules or practices -- since Jan. 1, 2011. The settlement payments include about $70,000 for more than a dozen safety violations in 2014 and 2015. Statistics for the current year are not yet available.
Months before Thursday's deadly commuter train crash in Hoboken, New Jersey, federal rail officials found dozens of violations during an audit focusing on NJ Transit's safety and operations, a U.S. official confirmed Saturday.
The official, who was familiar with the railroad administration audit, spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation.
The railroad administration began an audit in June after noticing an uptick in rail incidents and found "dozens of safety violations" that needed to be fixed immediately, the official said. The commuter rail agency was fined as a result of the audit, the official said, adding that federal agencies are continuing to work with the railroad to ensure compliance with federal rail safety guidelines.
There were 25 accidents in 2015 and 10 in the first seven months of 2016, but none caused injuries or death, federal data showed. Most of the incidents occurred at low speeds and more than half were in train yards.
On Thursday, a commuter train smashed through a steel-and-concrete bumper and hurtled into the station's waiting area, killing a woman on the platform and injuring more than 100 other people.
The train's engineer, Thomas Gallagher, who was among those injured in the crash, has been interviewed by the National Transportation Safety Board, officials said, but the agency provided no further details about the interview in a news release Saturday.
During an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," Gov. Chris Christie says it's still not clear why the train was traveling so fast.
The Republican governor said there were several possible reasons, such as engineer error, a medical emergency or a mechanical failure. But he said people should let the National Transportation Safety Board "do their work," adding that "you don't jump to conclusions, you let the facts lead you to the appropriate conclusion."
The NTSB also retrieved an event recorder from the locomotive at the rear of the train and investigators are waiting to download speed and braking information it contains. Investigators haven't been able to extract a second recorder from the forward-facing video camera in the train's mangled first car because it is under a collapsed section of the train station's roof.
The signals on the tracks leading to Hoboken Terminal appear to be working normally and officials completed a walking inspection of the track, finding nothing that would have affected the performance of the train, the NTSB said in an update Saturday. Investigators have obtained video from other trains that were inside the train station when the crash occurred.
Signs posted at a New Jersey Transit maintenance facility in Hoboken, dated February, said there had been 10 incidents involving trains in the prior two months, including five derailments. The sign said the "serious incidents reflect a dangerous trend" and that the main cause of the incidents appeared to be caused by human error.
A spokesman for New Jersey Transit didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, this weekend, all rail service into and out of Hoboken Terminal remains suspended. Hudson-Bergen Light Rail service has been restored into and out of Hoboken and will continue to operate. Cross honoring with PATH, ferries, NJ TRANSIT bus and private carriers will continue throughout the weekend.
Customers may experience overcrowding and possible delays caused by congestion.
Here is what's known about the investigation into Thursday's deadly commuter train crash in Hoboken:
Gov. Chris Christie says it's still not clear why a New Jersey Transit commuter train was traveling so fast when it crashed in Hoboken, killing one person and injuring more than 100 others.
During an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," the Republican governor said there were several possible reasons, such as engineer error, a medical emergency or a mechanical failure. But he said people should let the National Transportation Safety Board "do their work."
"You don't jump to conclusions, you let the facts lead you to the appropriate conclusion," he said.
Federal investigators say there were no problems with signals at a New Jersey station where the commuter train crashed.
The National Transportation Safety Board said Saturday that the signals leading to the Hoboken Terminal appear to be working normally. It says a full study can't be completed yet because the train is still in the station.
Officials say structural issues are preventing work crews from removing the New Jersey Transit train from the terminal.
NTSB officials will hold a 4 p.m. briefing Sunday in Hoboken.
SAFETY VIOLATIONS-FRA AUDIT
A U.S. government official says the Federal Railroad Administration had investigated New Jersey Transit and found dozens of safety violations months before Thursday's commuter train crash.
The official confirmed Saturday the FRA conducted an audit of New Jersey Transit in June and violations were found. The official says the rail agency also was fined.
A follow-up phase of the audit, focusing on ensuring the railroad's compliance with safety guidelines, was ongoing when the commuter train slammed into Hoboken Terminal Thursday.
The National Transportation Safety Board says its investigators have spoken with the train's engineer, Thomas Gallagher.
But they declined Saturday to provide further details about the interview.
The agency had held off questioning Gallagher on Friday because he was injured when the train smashed through a steel-and-concrete bumper and hurtled into the station's waiting area.
Investigators from one of the other agencies taking part in the probe interviewed Gallagher, a NJ Transit engineer for about 18 years, three times Friday. Officials wouldn't disclose what Gallagher said but described him as cooperative.
THE BLACK BOX
The NTSB retrieved the event recorder that was in the locomotive at the rear of the train but hasn't been able to download its data and has gone to the manufacturer for help. The event recorder contains speed and braking information.
The NTSB also hasn't been able to extract a recorder from the forward-facing video camera in the train's mangled first car. The wreckage cannot be safely entered yet because it is under a collapsed section of the station's roof.
Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, the crash's sole fatality, was a young mother, talented lawyer and dedicated wife with a penchant for travel.
Thursday, the 34-year-old de Kroon was headed to the station during the morning commute. First she dropped off her toddler and had a good, but fleeting, conversation with a day care worker.
A short time later, the train barreled down the tracks with such speed that it plowed into a barrier and went airborne into the station. De Kroon was buried by debris. She died as a crash bystander comforted her.
De Kroon, a 2011 master's degree graduate from Florida International University's College of Business, had previously lived in Florida, but was a Brazil native. She'd temporarily paused her legal career, leaving the software company SAP in Brazil after her husband got a job with an international liquor company.
A friend of Bittar de Kroon's family told The Record newspaper her husband would accompany his wife's body back to Brazil for burial.