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17 February 2021
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigates aviation, railroad, highway, marine and pipeline accidents to determine their probable cause and issues safety recommendations to reduce the risk of future accidents. This article considers the final phase of NTSB investigations, as well as the options available to interested parties thereafter.(1)
After the analytic phase of an NTSB investigation, the NTSB holds a public probable cause meeting in an auditorium in its building in Washington DC. NTSB staff present their proposed findings, probable cause and recommendations for discussion, and there is a vote by the five presidentially appointed NTSB members. The meetings are typically two to three hours long and are webcast live.
NTSB safety recommendations rarely focus on a single probable cause of an individual accident. Rather, the NTSB frequently uses the opportunity to offer broader recommendations as to how related future accidents might be avoided. These recommendations are given to interested parties, including:
The auditorium is configured to allow those interested in the investigation to attend and listen but not speak or otherwise participate. There is a special area set aside for any persons who were injured in the incident and their families, as well as the families of any persons who were killed. The meetings often receive heavy press coverage.
The NTSB releases an executive summary of the findings, probable cause and recommendations the day of the meeting. The final accident report is typically released within two weeks.
NTSB investigations are never closed. If an interested party (which is not necessarily a party to the investigation) disagrees with a finding, determination of probable cause or recommendation, it can file a petition to reconsider with the NTSB. Such petitions must be based on new evidence or a material clear error in the accident report.
For further information on this topic please contact Thomas Tobin or Daniel Braude at Wilson Elser by telephone (+1 914 262 2891 or +1 212 564 2522) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Wilson Elser website can be accessed at www.wilsonelser.com.
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