The government's blood and urine tests on seven railroad employees involved in the April 12 train wreck in Chase have turned up no trace of illegal drugs or alcohol, the Federal Railroad Administration said today.
FRA spokeswoman Kaye Wood said "all specimens screened negative for alcohol and controlled substances."
The finding confirms the results of unofficial urine sampling and analyses conducted by Amtrak and announced last week.
Today's announcement also apparently puts to rest doubts raised last week by the FRA about the procedures followed by personnel at the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore. Shock-Trauma personnel drew blood and urine samples from the two injured Amtrak crewmen.
Wood said the tests were conducted on samples from the engineer and conductor of the Amtrak train, an Amtrak dispatcher, and from the Conrail engineer, reserve engineer, conductor and brakeman.
The samples were analyzed by CompuChem Laboratories, in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
The accident remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
NTSB spokesman Alan Pollock today described the drug tests as "a routine part of our process." The FRA finding will have no immediate bearing on the continuing investigation, Pollack said.
Investigators are focusing on improper connection of the Amtrak locomotive's air brakes to those of the three electric engines it was towing north for repairs. Two maintenance workers from Amtrak's Ivy City yards in Washington, where the train was prepared, were suspended without pay pending the outcome of the investigation.
The Amtrak engines were unable to stop before crashing into the center of a southbound Conrail coal train at a switch just south of the Gunpowder River. The collision caused more than $800,000 in damage to track and trains.
The Amtrak crewmen were injured jumping from their engine just before the crash. The engineer, Ray Francis Hunsberger, 38, of Glenolden, Pa., was released from the Shock Trauma April 13. The conductor, Ronald Edward Hairston, 48, of Collegeville, Pa., was released April 19.