Amtrak Engineer doesn’t remember deadly wreck
The engineer at the controls of the speeding Amtrak train that lurched off the tracks in Philadelphia, killing at least seven people, has no recollection of the crash and wasn’t on his cellphone or using drugs or alcohol, his attorney said.
Lawyer Robert Goggin told ABC News that the engineer, Brandon Bostian, 32, of New York, suffered a concussion in Tuesday night’s wreck and had 14 staples in his head, along with stitches in one leg.
Federal investigators have determined that the train was barreling through the city at 106 mph before it ran off the rails along a sharp curve where the speed limit drops to just 50 mph. But they don’t know why it was going so fast.
“He remembers coming into curve. He remembers attempting to reduce speed and thereafter he was knocked out,” Goggin said. But he said Bostian does not recall anything out of the ordinary and does not remember using the emergency brake, which investigators say was applied moments before the crash.
The lawyer said the next thing the engineer remembered was coming to, looking for his bag, retrieving his cellphone and calling 911 for help. He said the engineer’s cellphone was off and stored in his bag before the accident, as required.
“As a result of his concussion, he has absolutely no recollection whatsoever of the events,” Goggin said. He said he believes the engineer’s memory will probably return once the head injury subsides.
Goggin said that his client “cooperated fully” with police, immediately consented to a blood test and surrendered his cellphone. He said he had not been drinking or doing drugs. Police had said on Wednesday that the engineer had refused to give a statement to law enforcement.
Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board said on Wednesday that accident investigators want to talk to the engineer but will give him a day or two to recover from the shock of the accident.
Goggin said his client was distraught when he learned of the devastation.
A data recorder and a video camera in the train’s front end were recovered from the wreck and could yield clues to what happened. Amtrak inspected the stretch of track on Tuesday, just hours before the accident, and found no defects, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.
The engineer hit the emergency brakes moments before the crash but slowed the train to only 102 mph by the time the locomotive’s black box stopped recording data, according to Sumwalt. The speed limit just before the bend is 80 mph, he said.
Mayor Michael Nutter said the engineer was clearly “reckless and irresponsible.”
“Part of the focus has to be, what was the engineer doing?” Nutter said. “Why are you traveling at that rate of speed?”
More than 200 people aboard the Washington-to-New York train were injured in the wreck, which happened in a decayed industrial neighborhood not far from the Delaware River just before 9:30 p.m.
Sixteen people remained at Temple University Hospital, including eight in critical condition, but all were expected to recover, said Dr. Herbert Cushing, chief medical officer. The patients are between 19 and 80 years old and have severe rib injuries, he added.
The dead included an Associated Press employee, a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, a Wells Fargo executive, a college administrator and the CEO of an educational startup.
It was the nation’s deadliest train accident in nearly six years.
With the investigation underway, all Amtrak service has been suspended between Philadelphia and New York, forcing many thousands of commuters and other travelers to find some other means of transportation.
Despite pressure from Congress and safety regulators, Amtrak had not installed along that section of track Positive Train Control, a technology that uses GPS, wireless radio and computers to prevent trains from going over the speed limit. Most of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor is equipped with Positive Train Control.
“Based on what we know right now, we feel that had such a system been installed in this section of track, this accident would not have occurred,” Sumwalt said.
Nutter said some people were unaccounted for but cautioned that some passengers listed on the Amtrak manifest might not have boarded the train, while others might not have checked in with authorities.
“We will not cease our efforts until we go through every vehicle,” the mayor said.
The notoriously tight curve is not far from the site of one of the deadliest train wrecks in U.S. history: the 1943 derailment of the Congressional Limited, bound from Washington to New York. Seventy-nine people were killed.
Amtrak carries 11.6 million passengers a year along its busy Northeast Corridor, which runs between Washington and Boston.