A spokesman for Amtrak said yesterday that "preliminary indications" were that the engineer of a northbound MARC train was responsible for a low-speed collision with an Amtrak passenger train in the tunnel south of Penn Station Friday.
And the spokesman, R. Clifford Black IV, confirmed that Amtrak officials were investigating a report that the Maryland Rail Commuter engineer was urinating into a bottle when his diesel locomotive rear-ended and coupled with the northbound Amtrak Virginian. But Mr. Black cautioned that "it's not been determined one way or another whether that's the actual fact."
The low-speed collision at approximately 11 a.m. in the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel caused minor injuries to 16 passengers and crew members, Mr. Black said. None was admitted to a hospital.
One MARC passenger said the collision threw several commuters to the floor. Neither train was damaged. Both proceeded north under their own power a few minutes after the incident.
Blood tests were performed on the crews of both trains. The MARC crew, including the engineer, showed no drug or alcohol involvement, Mr. Black said. Test results were not yet available on the Amtrak crew.
"Preliminary indications are that the engineer of train No. 410, the MARC train, failed to stop in time to avoid coupling into the back of the Virginian," Mr. Black said.
He said a signal light in the tunnel warned the MARC engineer to stop and proceed "sufficiently slowly to avoid striking any obstruction." The speed of the collision, he said, was apparently less than 20 mph. The speed limit in the tunnel is 15 mph.