Tag Archives: NTSB

Get ready for the deserved lawsuits on this tragedy

I usually am not one to call for litigation in the wake of tragedy, but the case involving a crash in New York that killed 20 people qualifies as a profound exception.

Yes, 20 people died this week when a limousine careened off a New York highway. It now turns out that the vehicle, an 18-year-old SUV, didn’t pass the state safety inspection required of motor vehicles.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the vehicle had no business being on the road.

Moreover, the driver of the vehicle reportedly wasn’t properly licensed to drive it, let alone carry so many people.

This probe continues

This tragic event has so many terrible back stories, it’s almost impossible to process the sadness one can feel, even from a distance. Newlywed couples perished; four sisters died as well. The National Transportation Safety Board says it rarely investigates incidents that carry this kind of emotional impact.

Indeed, I fully expect there to be lawsuit upon lawsuit filed to recoup some modicum of the loss that these families and other loved ones have suffered from this tragic event.

My knee-jerk reaction normally would allow for some skepticism.

Not this time.

They need to make a film about this one

Chesley “Sulley” Sullenberger landed an airplane in the Hudson River, saving the lives of passengers aboard the USAir jetliner.

They made a movie about it, casting Tom Hanks in the role of “Sulley.”

They need to make another film about a heroic pilot. Her name is Tammie Jo Shults, who this week saved the lives of more than 100 passengers when a Southwest Airlines jetliner — bound from New York to Dallas — she was flying suffered a grievous engine failure.

The engine exploded, sending shrapnel into the fuselage. It knocked a window out, nearly pulling a passenger out of the aircraft, which was at 33,000 feet when the incident occurred. The passenger suffered mortal wounds from the incident.

Shults’s reaction, though, has been hailed as nothing short of heroic. She quickly took the plane into a descent. The plane’s oxygen masks were deployed. Shults’s cool, calm and measured demeanor as she radioed to the nearest aircraft tower of her emergency has been recorded and noted.

According to NBC News:

“We have part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit,” she’s heard calmly telling air traffic controllers in audio transmissions after reporting the aircraft’s engine failure.

“Could you have medical meet us there on the runway as well? We’ve got injured passengers,” Shults then requests.

The captain of the ship did her job flawlessly.

Her training as a Navy pilot stood her in great stead as she took the plane to a safe landing, saving many more lives. I’ll add, too, that only about 6 percent of U.S. commercial airline pilots are female.

The investigation will go forward. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration will get to the bottom of the what went wrong and presumably recommended ways to prevent this kind of event from recurring.

After all that is done — and I know I’m not the first person to offer this view — they need to make a movie about this amazing feat.

Getting to the cause of that hideous rail crash


Welcome to the Texas Panhandle, National Transportation Safety Board.

The NTSB has dispatched some high-powered investigators to examine the cause of the fiery crash that has killed at least two crew members aboard freight trains that collided just east of Panhandle.

You’ve seen the video. The smoke, the fire, the mayhem and misery. It’s all quite disturbing.

NTSB investigator Richard Hipskind said the agency’s aim is to determine the cause and to recommend ways to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Indeed, this region relies heavily on rail traffic.

Drive along most of the major highways coursing across the Texas Panhandle.

My wife and I drove recently from Amarillo to Clovis, N.M., along U.S. 60 through Canyon, Hereford, Friona, Bovina and Farwell. We must have seen a dozen trains traveling in both directions — at high speed, I should add — on tracks running parallel to the highway.

We see much the same thing whenever we drive along U.S. 287 toward the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

The thought has entered my mind more than once whenever we see many trains on these drives through the Panhandle: I sure hope the folks who run these rail tracks know how to keep these trains from running into each other.


The NTSB has some video to examine to determine how these trains ended up on the same track before colliding on the high-speed track.

The community should mourn the loss of life.

It also should insist that NTSB and railroad investigators leave nothing on the table as they look for the cause of this horrifying crash — and seek ways to protect our communities from future explosive collisions.

102 mph … on an Amtrak line?

My sincerest hope at the moment is that the engineer of the Amtrak train that crashed this week gets his wits about him and can tell investigators why in the world he was shattering the speed limit on a rail line that resulted in the deadly derailment in Philadelphia.


Eight people were killed and that appears to the final fatality total, as the rest of the passengers have been accounted for.

The nation’s hearts go out to the families of those who died or were injured.

Brandon Bostian, 32, needs to provide some answers. The speed limit on the turn in the track where the derailment occurred is 50 mph; the line has a maximum speed limit of 70 mph along the New York-to-Washington route.

Bostian said he doesn’t recall anything about the accident. His lawyer describes Bostian as “very distraught” and said he is cooperating with National Transportation Safety Board investigators.

To be honest, I was unaware that these Amtrak locomotives could even go as fast as the train was going when it flew off the tracks.

A worried nation awaits the engineer’s account of just why he was speeding far beyond what was safe and prudent.

A 'remarkable' little girl, indeed

They might write books, perhaps make a film, about Sailor Gutzler.

One day they might. Not now. Not for a long time yet.

She’s just 7 years old and is going through an ordeal no one should ever endure at any age, at any time of their life.

Sailor survived a plane crash in rural Kentucky. The crash killed her parents, her older sister and a cousin. Her entire immediately family was gone. Just like that.


The remarkable aspect of the story deals with (a) how Sailor survived the deadly crash of a small, twin-engine plane and (b) how she found safe haven in cold, dark, damp woods.

Sailor reportedly was sitting in the rear of the Piper piloted by her dad, 48-year-old Marty Gutzler. He was an experienced pilot who apparently earned his pilot’s license before being licensed to drive a motor vehicle. It’s said often that the rear of these aircraft are safer than anyplace nearer to the front.

She crawled out of the aircraft that had landed upside-down. Sailor apparently knew her family had perished. Off she went, clothed in Florida summer vacation clothing, from where she and her family were returning to their home in Illinois.

It was cold that night. She trudged some distance through thickets, through a deep ditch. She spotted a light and walked toward it.

The light turned out to be the home of Larry Wilkins. She knocked on the man’s door. He opened it and she told him her parents had died in the crash. She was bleeding, in pain, confused and terribly frightened. Wilkins called 9-1-1.

This story is as heartbreaking as it gets.

How this little girl will cope with the memory of what happened on that dark Kentucky night well could become grist for literature and film.

Not for a long time. She must heal. Thoroughly heal.

“She is one remarkable young lady,” National Transportation Safety Board investigator Heidi Moats said at a Sunday news conference.

Boy, howdy!