Just Before Crash, Amtrak Train Sped Up

Control system was months away from being switched on
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2015 5:31 AM CDT
Updated May 15, 2015 7:23 AM CDT
Just Before Crash, Amtrak Train Sped Up
In this Aug. 21, 2007, photo, Brandon Bostian, then an assistant conductor, stands by as passengers board a train at the Amtrak station in St. Louis.   (Huy Richard Mach/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

The Amtrak train in Tuesday night's deadly crash was going the speed limit until just before the derailment, when it mysteriously sped up when it should have slowed down, according to National Transportation Safety Board investigators. NTSB member Robert Sumwalt says that in the space of around a minute, the train's speed jumped from 70mph to 102mph, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Sumwalt says it's not clear whether engineer Brandon Bostian—who was concussed and has "no explanation" for the derailment—accelerated manually. Sumwalt says inspection records haven't revealed any problems with the track, signals, or the Siemens "Cities Sprinter" locomotive itself, reports USA Today.

  • Bostian has told investigators he has no memory of the crash or of engaging the emergency brake, but Sumwalt says he did so seconds before the derailment, CNN reports. He says the engineer, who's recovering from multiple injuries, has agreed to be interviewed by the NTSB and will be allowed to have a lawyer present.

  • The "positive train control" system that could have prevented the crash was just months away from becoming a reality in the Northeast Corridor, reports the New York Times. John Boehner called a question about funding cuts contributing to the crash "stupid" yesterday, but funding problems did contribute to the delay, the Times reports. The train—and the tracks—were already equipped with the system, but it took four years to buy the rights to airwaves to switch it on.
  • An eighth victim was found by a cadaver dog yesterday. Like many other victims, Ecolab exec Bob Gildersleeve, 45, was on his way home to his family. When he didn't make it home on Tuesday, his wife and two teenagers traveled to Philadelphia to search hospitals for him, NBC Philadelphia reports.
  • Though there are still many questions surrounding the crash—especially the increase in speed—Amtrak says it takes full responsibility for it, the AP reports. "With truly heavy hearts, we mourn those who died. Their loss leaves holes in the lives of their families and communities," CEO Joseph Boardman said in a statement. "Amtrak takes full responsibility and deeply apologizes for our role in this tragic event." Amtrak says full service between New York and Philadelphia should resume early next week.
(More Amtrak stories.)

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