We may never know what caused the 22 highway, aviation, marine and railway accidents that occurred during the partial government shutdown and were not investigated, because furloughed National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators did not physically visit the accidents sites. That, says the NTSB, means “that perishable evidence may have been lost, which potentially could prevent determination of probable cause.”

Like other government agencies affected by the shutdown, the NTSB resumed normal operations on Monday and took stock of how it had been impacted by the work stoppage.

Of the 397 agency staff, 367 employees were furloughed, 26 employees were excepted, and four investigators were recalled and worked without pay to support investigations of three international aviation accidents.

The numbers

As of Jan. 25, 2019, impacts of the partial shutdown for the NTSB include:

  • Twenty-two accidents in which the NTSB did not dispatch investigators, including:
    • 15 aviation accidents resulting in 21 fatalities
    • Three marine accidents
    • Two railroad accidents resulting in two fatalities
    • Two highway accidents resulting in 7 fatalities, 15 injuries
    • These 22 accidents now require investigative action.
  • Six accidents in which the NTSB did not gather evidence to determine if an investigation was warranted, including
    • Two pipeline accidents (one diesel fuel, one natural gas)
    • Three highway accidents resulting in eight fatalities
    • One railroad accident resulting in one fatality
  • During the partial shutdown work stopped on:
    • 1,815 ongoing general aviation and limited aviation safety investigations
    • 33 ongoing rail, pipeline, and hazardous materials investigations
    • 44 ongoing marine investigations
    • 21 ongoing highway investigations
  • Within the Office of Research and Engineering, work stopped on:
    • 63 medical cases
    • 63 cases in the Materials Laboratory Division
    • 451 cases in the Vehicle Recorders Division
    • 54 cases in the Vehicle Performance Division
  • Postponement of the launch of the NTSB’s 2019 – 2020 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements, which has been rescheduled to Feb. 4.
  • Postponement of a board meeting to determine the probable cause of the March 2017 runway excursion in Ypsilanti, Michigan
  • Cancellation of 22 external meetings or presentations
  • More than 180 media inquiries went unanswered