Thursday, May 14, 2015

Amtrak Engineer Brandon Bostian Had Passion for Trains

Amtrak Engineer Brandon Bostian Had Passion for Trains

Lawyer says Bostian doesn’t remember crash and can’t explain what happened


ENLARGE  Brandon Bostian departs on a Chicago-bound Amtrak train in 2007.  
Brandon Bostian, the 32-year-old engineer who was at the controls of an Amtrak train that crashed Tuesday, had a passion for the railroad and the job he has held since graduating from college, friends said Thursday.
“If you had seen him a week ago and talked to him, no matter what you talked about, you would have known that he loved trains and Amtrak and helping transport people from one place to another,” said Matt Broffman, a friend who attended the University of Missouri with Mr. Bostian.
Jeff Kocar, who worked for Amtrak for 28 years in a variety of jobs, said he met Mr. Bostian around 2007 at a training facility in Wilmington, Del., and described him as a conscientious, dedicated employee. He said unlike some Amtrak employees, Mr. Bostian didn’t hide his affection for railroads. “A lot of people don’t like to admit that it’s their hobby or they’re enthusiasts. They don’t want to be perceived as railroad geeks,” he said.
Mr. Bostian, who lives in the Forest Hills section of Queens in New York, has become the focus of intense scrutiny since investigators said Wednesday that the train was going more than twice the speed limit as it entered a sharp turn, where it jumped the tracks. Eight people were killed.
Mr. Bostian didn’t return a message left on his cellphone and there was no answer at his home Thursday. His lawyer, Robert Goggin, and representatives of Mr. Bostian’s union didn’t respond to requests for comment.
But Mr. Goggin told ABC’s “Nightline” that his client can’t remember the crash and can’t explain what happened. “He remembers driving the train, he remembers going to that area generally, [but] has absolutely no recollection of the incident or anything unusual,” Mr. Goggin said in an interview that aired Wednesday night.
The lawyer said Mr. Bostian suffered head injuries in the crash and needed 14 stitches. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said the engineer declined to speak with police after the crash. Mr. Bostian’s lawyer told ABC News that his client voluntarily gave a blood sample and turned over his cellphone.
Mr. Bostian grew up outside Memphis in Bartlett, Tenn. Stefanie McGee, who worked with Mr. Bostian at the small Bartlett Express newspaper from 2000 to 2001, said Mr. Bostian wrote about locomotives, buses and roads among the news and sports he was required to cover.
Even vacations, she said, were a chance to talk about trains. “He’d come back from a trip and his souvenir would be a train ticket or a subway map,” Ms. McGee said.
Ms. McGee, who is now city clerk for Bartlett, said she sent Mr. Bostian a birthday message in the past couple of weeks. “He’s a sweet guy with a super corny sense of humor,” she said. “The more puns there were, he loved it.”
Mr. Bostian graduated from the University of Missouri in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, the university said.
Mr. Broffman, who was a member of the Acacia fraternity along with Mr. Bostian, said his friend was thrilled to learn he had been hired by Amtrak.
“Working for Amtrak was always his dream job.” Mr. Broffman said.
Mr. Bostian started as a conductor in 2006 and became an engineer in 2010, according to a profile on LinkedIn. He had driven the Northeast Corridor route between Washington and New York for about three years, a person familiar with the matter said. Nothing in his work history raised any immediate red flags or indicated any pattern that could help shed light on the accident, this person said.
Amtrak declined to provide any information about the engineer, including his employment history.
Mr. Broffman described Mr. Bostian, who had served as treasurer of the fraternity’s chapter, as a responsible and a caring and kind person.
Neighbors who live in the same apartment building in the working-class section of Queens describe Mr. Bostian as a friendly man who enjoyed being an Amtrak engineer.
“He was happy with his job,” said Moresh Koya, who lives one floor above Mr. Bostian. Mr. Koya, who said he had met Mr. Bostian at a dinner party, described him as a “very personable guy, very nice, responsible.”
Ryan DeBoard, a friend from high school, said news of the crash was hard to process.
“I can’t even imagine what he’s going through,” said Mr. DeBoard, who lives in Nashville, Tenn., and said he has mostly kept up with Mr. Bosnian through Facebook.
Many of Mr. Bostian’s friends expressed their concern and sympathy on what appeared to be his Facebook page as news of the accident began to spread. “I’ve been thinking about you since I heard, you’ll make it through this,” one friend posted.
One friend who wears an Amtrak uniform in his Facebook profile wrote: “Hey Brandon. Just wanted to say that we are all thinking about you, and you have our full support. Every day, you will get stronger and stronger. And just remember that your Amtrak family is here for you Brother.”
Write to Kris Maher at

For Amtrak Engineer Brandon Bostian, Childhood Passion Became a Career

Brandon Bostian at an Amtrak station in St. Louis in 2007. Mr. Bostian was the engineer driving the train that derailed on Tuesday in Philadelphia. Credit Huy Richard Mach/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, via Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — For Brandon Bostian, the engineer in the fatal Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia this week, a childhood passion for trains turned into a career.
Growing up outside Memphis, Mr. Bostian was an “unabashed nerd,” said Lee Allen, his best friend through middle school and high school.
“When you heard the name Brandon Bostian, the first thing you would think is trains,” Mr. Allen said on Thursday. “His walls were covered with pictures, he had several model sets. Sometimes we’d just go down to the tracks that ran through town and watch trains and shoot the breeze.”
Mr. Bostian was at the controls on Tuesday night when an Amtrak train hurtled off a sharp curve in north Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring more than 200. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating to determine why the train was traveling at 106 miles per hour — more than double the speed limit — when it derailed.
Mr. Bostian, 32, who lived in Queens, began working for Amtrak nearly a decade ago, first as a conductor and then as an engineer, Mr. Allen said. His lawyer, Robert Goggin, told ABC News on Thursday morning that Mr. Bostian did not remember the crash and was “distraught” to learn of what happened.
On the online forums of, a writer who signed many of his posts as “Brandon” routinely criticized railroad companies for not doing more to prevent accidents. Details strongly suggest the posts were by Mr. Bostian — the subjects and locations of the posts correspond to the places he lived and the jobs he has had at Amtrak. In a cached version of a deleted topic page, other members of the site identified Mr. Bostian by name and his online handle, saying he was the conductor of the train that derailed.
The posts criticize a lack of safeguards to protect against human error, pointing out how fatigue, bad communication and “cutting corners” could lead to crashes. When others were skeptical of new safety technology, or dismissed the idea that an experienced engineer could make a simple mistake, he was often quick to comment to the contrary.
In a March 2011 discussion of a train collision, the writer laid out how technology had been in place since the 1920s to stop trains if engineers failed to obey stop signals, how technology improved in the 1950s until, by the 1980s, a pilot “positive train control” system was up and running. But, he noted, railroad companies never adopted the safety measures.
“At any point over the previous EIGHTY years the railroad could have voluntarily implemented some form of this technology on the line where that fateful wreck took place,” the post said. “I wish the railroads had been more proactive in adopting active signaling systems from the get-go.”

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Investigating the Philadelphia Amtrak Train Derailment

The train’s speed was normal until minutes before it derailed.


Mr. Bostian was taken to the hospital after the derailment and had suffered a concussion, said his lawyer, Mr. Goggin. Robert L. Sumwalt, an official at the National Transportation Safety Board who is leading the investigation into the derailment, said people often had trouble remembering things after a traumatic event.

“It’s not uncommon at all to not be able to remember things,” Mr. Sumwalt said Thursday morning, referring to Mr. Bostian. “Now over time, some of that memory comes back.”
Mr. Bostian’s friends from Tennessee are deeply concerned for him, Mr. Allen said.
“It was such a horrible accident,” Mr. Allen said. “All those people killed. Having that weigh on you. All of his friends from home — we’re all heartaching for him.”
Mr. Bostian had written for a local newspaper during the summers and studied journalism at the University of Missouri before switching his major to accounting, Mr. Allen said. A LinkedIn profile for Mr. Bostian said he worked as a cashier at a Target store in Columbia, Mo., during college.
He worked at Amtrak as an engineer for four and a half years, according to the profile. He was a conductor at the railroad before that, from 2006 to 2010.
At Mr. Bostian’s apartment in Forest Hills, Queens, on Wednesday night, a neighbor, Miriam Mierov, described him as “a really sweet person.”
“He’s always polite,” she said. “He holds the elevator when he sees me.”
Friends have posted encouraging words on Mr. Bostian’s Facebook profile in the days after the crash. A friend whose profile said he was also an engineer at Amtrak wrote of the crash, “Yes, it happened to you but it could have been any one of us and you are not alone.”

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