Investigators probing a deadly train derailment in northeastern Florida say the engineer applied emergency brakes shortly before the accident occurred.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators have begun the painstaking task of trying to determine what caused Thursday's derailment of an Amtrak Auto-Train, which left four people dead and more than 150 others injured, some critically.
NTSB investigator George Black said the engineer saw a problem on a stretch of track ahead of the train and slammed on the brakes just seconds before the accident occurred.
"I understand that he [the engineer] saw a misalignment in the track that caused him to react by putting on the brakes. We obviously will be looking very carefully at that observation," Mr. Black said.
The NTSB said the investigation is in its preliminary phase, and that no definitive conclusions have been drawn about the cause of the derailment.
Fourteen passenger cars jumped the track and several automobile-toting cars fell on their side near Crescent City, Florida. Authorities say it will take several days to clear the area so that track repairs can begin. The train, which carried more than 400 passengers and several dozen crewmembers, was traveling from central Florida to Virginia.