Trump’s Government Shutdown Jeopardized Many NTSB Accident Investigations

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Although President Trump’s government shutdown has finally ended, the stoppage continues to impact the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a small federal agency tasked with investigating major highway crashes and other transportation-related accidents.

NTSB Unable to Investigate 97 Accidents During Shutdown

On Wednesday, the Board acknowledged that it was unable to send investigators to the scene of 21 accidents that occurred during the shutdown, including:

  • 15 aviation accidents resulting in 21 deaths
  • 2 marine accidents
  • 2 railroad accidents resulting in 2 fatalities
  • 2 highway accidents resulting in 7 deaths, 15 injuries

The stoppage also prevented the NTSB from evaluating 6 additional crashes to determine if investigators should be sent to the scenes, or gather data on another 69 aircraft accidents.

90% of NTSB Staff Furloughed During Shutdown

The NTSB has a well-regarded reputation for conducting independent and precise investigations into highway crashes and other accidents involving civil transportation.

While it lacks enforcement power, federal regulators adopt the Board’s recommendations more often than not.

Unfortunately, with 90% of its staff furloughed during the 5-week government shutdown, the NTSB virtually ceased to function.

Evidence Vital to NTSB Crash Investigations Lost During Shutdown

The Board is now working on a plan to deal with its backlog; however, a significant amount of crucial evidence was likely lost during the shutdown.

As a result, investigators may never be able to determine the root cause of many accidents, including a fiery multi-vehicle crash along I-75 in Florida that tragically killed 7 people – including 5 Louisiana children – on January 3rd.

Apparently, the wreckage from that accident and many others was placed in storage while the NTSB remained sidelined. The Board must now decide whether it’s even worth deploying investigators to those crash scenes, or limit their probes to the recovered wreckage.

“Those are accidents that we really should have looked at and were not able to do that now because it’s gone,” former NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker told the Associated Press. “Without physically having an opportunity to look at it yourself, you really don’t get the exposure to it.”

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