The fatal derailment of an Amtrak train south of Seattle on Monday could intensify scrutiny of the national passenger railroad company's safety record, which was already under harsh criticism following a series of fatal incidents.
The cause of Monday's accident, which killed at least three people, has yet to be determined, and it could take months for investigators from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board to reach a conclusion.
Just last month, the chairman of the NTSB issued a scathing critique of Amtrak's culture, saying a future breakdown was likely, and the board made nine safety recommendations.
"Amtrak's safety culture is failing and is primed to fail again, until and unless Amtrak changes the way it practices safety management," NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said in a statement on Nov. 14.
Sumwalt's statement was made when the NTSB issued its findings on a fatal Amtrak accident in April 2016 in Pennsylvania, which it said was caused by "deficient safety management across many levels of Amtrak and the resultant lack of a clear, consistent and accepted vision for safety."
There was no indication that any of the same issues played a role in the Washington crash.
In the Pennsylvania accident, an Amtrak train struck a backhoe working on railroad tracks in Chester, Pennsylvania, killing two maintenance workers and injuring 41. It occurred a few miles south of the site of a May 2015 derailment in which eight people were killed and more than 200 injured.
Sumwalt told a hearing the board's "investigation revealed more than two dozen unsafe conditions and not all of these were rule-breaking by frontline employees."
Amtrak this past summer named former Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson as co-CEO. Anderson on a call with reporters on Monday said he would not speculate on the cause of the crash.
Anderson said Amtrak takes NTSB recommendations from investigations "very seriously" and was continuing to make investments that the NTSB recommended.
"Safety is the highest priority of the Amtrak board," Anderson said.
Amtrak said in a memo to employees in November seen by Reuters that it had been "transforming our safety culture" since the Pennsylvania incident and had made numerous reforms, including to communication, training, safety efforts and creating a team that conducts safety audits. It also expanded drug and alcohol testing.