Though their investigation is not complete, officials with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on June 10 have said that investigators looking into the tragic derailment of an Amtrak train that left eight people dead and more than 200 injured last month near Philadelphia was not using his cell phone to either make a phone call or send a text at the time of the accident.
You may recall that the train was en route from Washington DC to New York and was just north of Philadelphia when the crash occurred. According to investigators, the train was traveling at about 106 miles per hour on a curve with a posted speed limit of 50 miles per hour at the time of the crash. There is also evidence that the train sped up significantly, from 70 miles per hour to 106 in just the last minute or so before the train left the tracks. As of now, it is unknown whether the speed increase happened manually or something malfunctioned.
What Investigators Know So Far
The section of track where the crash occurred is part of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, a 363-mile section of track that is by far the busiest stretch of passenger rail in North America. In fact, the trains on that stretch carry more passengers daily that all of the air traffic in the area.
The train’s engineer, Brandon Bostian, was injured in the railroad accident, and told his lawyer and NTSB investigators he doesn’t remember any details of the accident; he only remembers “coming to” and finding his bag, which is when he retrieved his cell phone and called 911.
Bostian voluntarily made his records and cell phone passcode available to investigators and based on the records and data, they determined that the engineer made no phone calls or texts before the accident, and he also didn’t access the train’s Wi-Fi system. Investigators are still trying to determine whether the phone was either powered off or in “airplane” mode at the time. In order to determine that, the investigators have been testing more than 400,000 meta-data files to validate its settings.
So What Went Wrong?
In the month since the May 12 accident, Amtrak and its passengers have been getting mixed signals, to say the least. One thing that was missing from that stretch of track was a system that is called Positive Train Control, which is an automatic braking system for high-speed trains that can remotely keep the trains below the speed limit. It is actually one of the few curved sections of the Northeast Corridor that was not equipped with PTC. Within a few days, the NTSB called for the system to be installed as soon as possible. In addition, NTSB officials called on Congress to keep a Dec. 31 deadline for PTC to be installed on all passenger and commuter railways, although NTSB officials are only expecting about 70 percent coverage by that time.
The same day, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that cuts the Amtrak budget by $242 million, although they did add new funding for a video camera system to keep an eye on train engineers, a system that has been delayed for several years.
Our train system is very important to commerce in this country, and it’s time that government officials took safety seriously, because it’s good for all of us. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a railroad company, please contact the attorneys at Liggett Law Group today, because our skilled team of Texas Transportation Lawyers can look into any situation and get you through this difficult time.