Berrien County dispatch says technology failure contributed to last week’s train derailment

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. (WNDU) – The Berrien County Public Safety Communication Center says it appears a technological glitch is partially to blame for the derailment of an Amtrak train last week in New Buffalo Township.

The crash happened Thursday evening at the Lakeside Road intersection near US-12 in New Buffalo Township. Officials say a tractor-trailer was removing another truck stuck on the tracks when a westbound Amtrak train headed for Chicago was unable to stop and collided with both vehicles.

The Chicago-bound train derailed but remained on the tracks, according to officials. Of the roughly 200 passengers on the train, officials say six people were taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries that were not life-threatening.

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While the incident is still under investigation, officials say it appears that a technological error and misidentification of a crossing contributed to the crash that led to the derailment of the train.

“Our preliminary review of this incident indicates that we experienced technical issues with our computer-aided dispatch system on the evening of November 16th, which prevented us from entering the cross-street intersection, which is critical to our ability to locate locations,” said Caitlin Sampsell, Berrien County 911 director, in a news release sent to 16 News Now. “At 9:21 p.m., we received two 911 calls alerting us to a stranded vehicle on train tracks in New Buffalo Township. We identified the location with the help of a nearby business, as due to the software issue we were unable to enter a crossing using cross streets. We cross-referenced this location with our list of level crossings, resulting in the identification of an incorrect level crossing.”

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Officials say the technology issue has been resolved and Berrien County is reviewing its 911 emergency dispatch protocols to mitigate any future incidents. The first steps taken to change shipping protocols include changes to the following:

  • Protocols related to computer and software updates.
  • Communication protocols with railways.
  • The Level Crossing Resource Guide, ensuring it is in a more user-friendly format for hauliers.

The incident remains under investigation.