Why does a trespasser Incident take so long?

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Dec 16, 2018
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Hi, I have been on the Pacific Surfliner and on two occasions we struck a person on the tracks and had to wait 3 hours to go.
How come they cannot simply leave once the cops arrive as it shuts down the whole system and causes major inconviences. Common sense would be have the police just to get the body off the tracks and move on....
Why hassle 1000s of people?
 

me_little_me

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Jul 16, 2010
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My thoughts:
The engineer and conductor have to be examined for drugs, alcohol, etc. issues. They need to be interviewed by police as witnesses also
The train needs to be examined for problems prior to and after in case it contributed to the problem or now has problems due to emergency braking
The crew may need to be replaced because of emotional problems resulting from killing a human being. A replacement crew might not be readily available.
Passengers may need to be checked for possible injuries due to emergency braking.
The train delay may cause other track backups which have to be cleared.

I'm sure there are other issues.
 

Rasputin

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It didn't use to take so long. I have read a number of accident reports from the 1920 - 1940 period. The conductor would report the accident to the dispatcher. The train would normally be halted until a coroner or undertaker appeared to take charge of the body. The crew would then resume their run with no replacement. Often law enforcement would not be involved.

Delay at those times seems to be about 20 minutes.
 

Dutchrailnut

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Crew usually needs to be relieved due to stress traumatized, drug/ Alcohol testing is NOT required during trespasser incidents, unless there is suspicion .
longest wait is usually for Coroner to show up, he could be at other case, and for him to do his investigation.

No test may be required for an accident/incident the cause and severity of which are wholly attributable to a natural cause (e.g., flood, tornado, or other natural disaster) or to vandalism or trespasser(s), as determined on the basis of objective and documented facts by the railroad representative responding to the scene
 

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neroden

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The "police investigation" collection of data seems to take much longer nowadays than it did in the past. I am not at all sure why.
 

pennyk

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Generally death investigations take longer. Any investigations in remote areas also take longer.
I recall back in the 1990's I was on the Auto Train that hit a pickup truck on the tracks somewhere in Gerogia. Somehow the occupants of the truck escaped major injury. Regardless, we were delayed 2-3 hours at the scene. We were further delayed due to a damaged snow plow which caused us to travel at slow speeds.

As previously mentioned, a new crew is usually called in which takes time.
 

neroden

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If you were the family of the one killed would you want the investigation rushed?
There is usually no evidence of any value on the train or on the tracks ahead of the train. I would want the train released rather than delaying hundreds of passengers.

Honestly, it's usually suicides and I don't think most of them would want to feel that their deaths had hurt even more people.
 

crescent-zephyr

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I would suggest that if you are ever in the situation that you are delayed by this, you take the time to text your friends and close family, donate to a suicide prevention hotline, and think how someone just lost a parent, child, sibling, friend in a tragic way.

Also think about the engine crew who witnessed it, and the conductors who now must walk the train inspecting it, and will likely see parts of a body / clothes etc.

If after all of that you are still annoyed by your couple of hour delay, I’m not sure what to tell you but you want to re-evaluate some things.

I’ve been fortunate in all my years riding Amtrak, via, etc. I’ve never been on board during a fatality. Have hit vehicles before with no fatality, and once hit a bear on the crescent while having breakfast on the crescent.
 

Dutchrailnut

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no one will shorten the investigation cause trains are used as tools to hide real causes, its not unheard off to find a car with a already dead person onto tracks or even prop up a body and hope the train gives them alibi, one of my class mates during his qualifying run had body fall of I-95 in new Rochelle to make it look like suicide, except the body was found to be way to cold for it to be recent. most are legit suicides specially around the holidays , but let officials do their job and have patients, at least like crew you don't have to live with image for rest of your life. in my 26 years in seat I got two and this time of year brings nightmares.
 

Qapla

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I would want the train released rather than delaying hundreds of passengers ... Honestly, it's usually suicides
That may be ... but I would want that verified before I continued on a train driven by someone who was on something or in some other way not paying attention - not to mention expecting the current driver to continue if he is now suffering stress from just seeing someone die before his eyes. I don't think Amtrak keeps a spare driver on their trains just in case the current driver becomes unable to drive.
 

Anderson

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I would suggest that if you are ever in the situation that you are delayed by this, you take the time to text your friends and close family, donate to a suicide prevention hotline, and think how someone just lost a parent, child, sibling, friend in a tragic way. Thanks for the suggestion, but I'll pass. See next comment.

Also think about the engine crew who witnessed it, and the conductors who now must walk the train inspecting it, and will likely see parts of a body / clothes etc. More worthwhile, but as noted there's a decent chance they're going out of service. Also, this is likely to make me angry at the jerk who might have just put a crew out of work. Setting aside any personal inconvenience, I've got a very real problem with anyone who is prepared to inconvenience several hundred to several thousand other people and potentially kill the careers of an operating crew as a matter of what amounts to personal convenience. Oh, wait, this isn't what you meant by "think about the engine crew", is it?

If after all of that you are still annoyed by your couple of hour delay, I’m not sure what to tell you but you want to re-evaluate some things. Bluntly, it depends on what I'm missing, and this is true of just about any major travel delay. There's a material difference between "I get to my hotel a little later than planned" and "I miss a meeting" or "I blow a connection and the next day's train is sold out". It isn't practical to build in the sorts of buffers needed to account for things like this cascading, and the costs of "hot-fixing" a trip "on the fly" can easily exceed most travel insurance coverage.

I’ve been fortunate in all my years riding Amtrak, via, etc. I’ve never been on board during a fatality. Have hit vehicles before with no fatality, and once hit a bear on the crescent while having breakfast on the crescent. I haven't, either. I was in a close call (some idiot walking on the tracks) in California the week after Thanksgiving, but the idiot on the tracks got clear in time.
Commentary in bold above.

I'd note that someone I know got stuck dealing with the administrative side of things for Metra when this happened. Something to note is that even when you had a clear suicide, the families would often huff and puff and threaten to sue Metra. So I suspect that some of the push for more aggressive documentation comes from the railroads as a preventative measure against lawsuits.

I must confess that I appreciate the Japanese attitude on this subject.
 
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anumberone

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Hi, I have been on the Pacific Surfliner and on two occasions we struck a person on the tracks and had to wait 3 hours to go.
How come they cannot simply leave once the cops arrive as it shuts down the whole system and causes major inconviences. Common sense would be have the police just to get the body off the tracks and move on....
Why hassle 1000s of people?
With all due respect for the unfortunate victims, sounds like the luck of the draw is not in your favor.
 

Ryan

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There's a material difference between "I get to my hotel a little later than planned" and "I miss a meeting" or "I blow a connection and the next day's train is sold out".
There's a much bigger difference between all of those things and the end of a human life (either from suicide or human error). Crescent-zephyr's advice to re-evaluate is good advice. If you still can't get over your overinflated sense of self-importance, I can only hope that you're not touched on the receiving end of something that's *actually* bad happening to you or someone you love.
 

Rover

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I would ask, for comparison, how do they handle trespasser incidents in other parts of the world, in Europe, in China?? Maybe we could learn something.
 

Rasputin

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Umm... you think the USA should be learning how to operate a country from China?
Given the human rights record there I am not interested in what they do in China but there are plenty of European countries with good records on human rights and I would be interested in knowing what happens there in these events.
 

Qapla

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I don't know about China's "regular" trains but an article I read about their "high speed" trains said that they had "0" (zero) deaths ... who knows how they would handle it until they have one
 

Seaboard92

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I know in Germany the times I’ve been on a train with a delay due to a trespasser strike they’ve rerouted all other rail traffic. But they can do that fairly easily as the whole country is full of alternative routes.

And I agree with Crescent Zephyr too. If you’re so self important I hope you never have to experience the pain a strike can have on you.

I still see the lady we hit last year every once in awhile during the day and at night. And that’s with a psychologist helping me. And I wasn’t even running the train.
 

jiml

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Shortly after being promoted on a regional railway, my son's best friend was operating a cab car which struck and killed a trespasser. Unlike some cab cars which have the engineer at locomotive height, the ones here have the cab quite low making the experience regrettably more "personal". He was given several months off with lots of counselling and still has nightmares about it.
 

PeeweeTM

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Here in the Netherlands the 'planned' time for recovery time after an accident with a person was 2 hours and 15 minutes. Traffic control will normally cancel all passenger trains in this time block. Ordering busses, flipping trains, replanning crews is partly pre-planned in operational rules.
Freight trains are sometimes rerouted, sometimes we just wait it out.
Fragmentation and recovery of the bodyparts and cleaning the affected train and tracks take some time.
Getting a replacement crew on the train in our small country usually doesn't take that long, so isn't normally the cause of extra delay.
 

Rasputin

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I certainly sympathize with the victims of these trespasser strikes, etc. and especially with their families and the train crews who are affected by these incidents through no fault of their own.

I also sympathize with the passengers who through no fault of their own suddenly find themselves facing a four or five hour delay. Perhaps I am wrong but I don't think that Amtrak provides any particular consideration for their passengers in these situations. Hopefully someone will correct me if I am mistaken.

It seems that these trespasser strikes have an outsize impact on passenger rail traffic which is not the case when someone jumps off a bridge or is involved in a fatal auto accident. I usually do not see the bridge being closed for five hours or for both lanes of the highway being closed for that period of time.

I realize that it is highly selfish to want to arrive reasonably on time or without extreme delay so we can begin to experience the purpose of our trip in the first place, be with our friends and family, attend a special event, etc. but we will put our own selfish wishes aside out of respect for the departed who apparently had no consideration for the effect of their actions on the unfortunate train crew and passengers.
 
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