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Reno, Nev. • The National Transportation Safety Board has concluded that a distracted driver in a truck with bad brakes was the probable cause of a fiery collision with an Amtrak passenger train that left six, including a Utahn, dead in northern Nevada last year.
On a 5-0 vote, the panel also agreed Tuesday that insufficient strength of passenger car walls likely contributed to the number of deaths and more than a dozen injuries after the truck skidded 300 feet into the train on June 24, 2011.
NTSB investigators said the truck driver killed in the crash apparently didn't notice the train because he was fatigued as a result of inconsistent sleeping patters, was suffering from ankle pain or possibly could have been checking messages on his cellphone. But the panel decided there wasn't enough evidence of any of those things to include in the formal probable cause finding issued in Washington.
The passengers killed in the accident were: Cheuy Ong, 34, of West Jordan; Francis Knox, 58, and Karly "Annie" Knox, 18, of Seward, Neb.; and Barbara Bell, 60, of United Kingdom.
The truck driver, Larry Valli, 43, was killed along with the train's conductor Laurette Lee, 68, of South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid commended the investigative team for providing "insight into the causes of the tragic collision."
"Today, as we reflect on the accident, my thoughts go out to the family and friends of those individuals who lost their lives in the collision and to those who were injured," he said in a statement. "The recommendations set forth today by NTSB will go to improve transportation safety and I look forward to receiving a full briefing on the investigation's findings in the near future."