Thursday, May 14, 2015

NTSB Investigators : The Latest on Amtrak crash

The speed of an Amtrak train that derailed Tuesday soared above authorized limits in the final seconds before it roared into a sharp curve at 102 miles per hour and derailed, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday.
The train's speed bumped from the permitted 80 mile per hour limit to more than 100 miles an hour in the last 40 seconds before it reached the 50 mile-per-hour bend.
With the death toll from the Amtrak wreckage rising to eight, investigators Thursday sharpened attention on the man at the controls of the speeding train even as his lawyer claimed the engineer had no memory of the instant the train jumped the tracks.
The train’s forward-looking image recorder revealed that the train started accelerating from 70 mph 65 seconds before the derailment, said Robert Sumwalt, a board member of the National Transportation Safety Board. It was at 100 mph 16 seconds before the recording ended, Sumwalt said.

A few moments into the turn, “we could see the train tilting approximately 10 degrees to the right,” he said. “and then the recording went blank.”
Philadelphia Fire Department Commissioner Derrick Sawyer says that an eighth victim has been found dead at the site of an Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia. (AP)
As the NTSB’s probe narrowed, larger issues about the state of the nation’s rail lines also surfaced — including whether safety shortcomings contributed to Tuesday’s deadly accident along the nation’s busiest sections of passenger rail.
In response, Amtrak’s chief executive promised to install speed-control systems, known as positive train control, across the entire line between Washington and Boston by the end of the year. Amtrak said service between Philadelphia and New York could resume early next week.
Amid the twisted metal of the first rail car, the latest body was found with help from cadaver-sniffing dogs, officials said. The discovery appeared to account for all 243 people on board the New York-bound train, said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
“Unfortunately, we must now confirm that we have reported eight deceased from his horrible tragedy,” he said.
The recovered body has been identified as Bob Gildersleeve Jr., 45, of Elkridge, Md. Doug Baker, chairman and chief executive officer of Ecolab, where Gildersleeve was a vice president, made the announcement.
“Bob was an exceptional leader and was instrumental to our success. We will greatly miss him, and our thoughts go out to his beloved family members and friends,” Baker said in a statement.
Investigators are combing the Philadelphia site where a New York-bound Amtrak train derailed on Tuesday after leaving D.C. View Graphic
Investigators, meanwhile, struggled to piece together the train’s final moments — including why it hurtled into a curved section of track at more than double the speed limit, and why the engineer failed to slow it down.
“There is a lot of work that needs to be done and will be done,” Sumwalt said. “Could the speed alone have caused this crash? That’s certainly part of the analysis, that’s exactly what we want to find out. Why did this train derail?”
Part of the answer of what happened on the train could rest with the engineer. His attorney says his client suffered a concussion and has no memory of the last seconds before the accident that killed eight people and injured more than 200.
“He was pretty beat up,” the attorney, Robert Goggin, told ABC News, adding that the engineer — whom he identified as Brandon Bostian, 32, of Queens — has multiple stitches on his head and leg.
“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 may return once the head injury subsides.
Although the engineer applied the emergency brakes, it was not soon enough and the Washington-to-New York train careened off the rails into a jumble of wrenched metal, blown-out windows and bloodied survivors struggling through darkness, trying to light their way with cellphones.
Goggin said Bostian was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and his cellphone was off and stored in a bag — per regulations. He also said Bostian consented to give a blood sample to authorities.
Bostian was questioned by police in what Nutter called a “pretty short interview.” Nutter said Bostian “apparently indicated that he did not want to be interviewed.”
But the mayor said Bostian “doesn’t have to be interviewed if he doesn’t want to be at this particular stage. That’s the way the system works.”
The engineer has agreed to be interviewed by NTSB investigators, Sumwalt said.
NTSB investigators said positive train control is designed to prohibit trains from exceeding speed limits. The system is in place in much of the Northeast Corridor, but Amtrak had not installed it on the section of track where the derailment happened.
Congress has mandated that the system be installed throughout the U.S. rail system by the end of this year.
“Had such a system been installed on this section of track, this accident would not have occurred,” Sumwalt said.
The train was traveling 106 mph — more than twice the authorized speed as it went into a sharp bend in the tracks, NTSB officials said.
“When the engineer-induced braking was applied, the train was traveling at approximately 106 miles per hour,” Sumwalt said. “Three seconds later [when the train crashed], the speed was 102.”
According to news reports, Bostian earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2006, citing his LinkedIn page. He also worked at the Target store in Columbia during his final year at the university, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
At Amtrak, Bostian worked as a conductor from July 2006 to December 2010 and then became an engineer, the newspaper reported.
On Bostian’s Facebook page, supporters posted messages of encouragement.
“Praying for you, my friend. And everyone else on board,” read one.
“Hold your head up,” said one post from someone who identified himself as Mark Schulthies, an Amtrak engineer. “Yes, it happened to you but it could have been any one of us and you are not alone.”
Overnight, the fifth of the eight passengers who were killed was identified: 42-year-old Derrick Griffith, the dean of student affairs at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.
Amtrak chief executive Joseph H. Boardman made his first public appearance at the scene of the wreck with city and state officials and rescuers.
“Amtrak is heartbroken for what happened here,” Boardman said. “I am making a commitment to positive train control in the Northeast corridor.”
He also said Amtrak had spent $111 million since 2008 in “getting ready” to put the system in place in the Northeast corridor. Some testing is still underway and there are problems with radio interference that need to be resolved before it goes operational later this year, according to Boardman.
Amtrak service remained closed between New York and Philadelphia. Amtrak trains also will make fewer trips than normal between Washington and Philadelphia.
Sumwalt said Thursday at the scene of the wreck that investigators will examine the tracks, looking for “witness marks” indicating where the train’s wheels dinged the tracks when it derailed.
Tests will also be done to see if the brakes were operating properly.
He said investigators would be looking at the survivability inside the individual cars — why some were heavily damaged, and some were not. Investigators would also carefully reconstruct who was sitting where, to see if that had any bearing on the extent of injuries.
“It does appear that the first car was the most severely damaged,” he said.
He said investigators would check to make sure the emergency exits worked properly and try to determine how the windows broke. “They shouldn’t break anyway,” he said. “They should have window glazing on it.”
Among the other victims, according to family members: Rachel Jacobs, 39, of Philadelphia; a Naval Academy midshipman, Justin Zemser, 20, who was on leave and headed to his home in Rockaway Beach, N.Y.; and Jim Gaines, 48, of Plainsboro, N.J., who worked for the Associated Press.
Abid Gilani, a Wells Fargo executive, also was among the victims. Gilani, 55, had previously been a senior executive at Marriott International in Bethesda.
On Thursday, Herbert Cushing, chief medical officer at Temple University Hospital — where some passengers were taken after the crash — said many of those patients are “doing very well and improving day-by-day.” Some, he said, could go home as soon as Thursday.
The patients who were treated at the Temple hospital ranged in age from 19 to 80 years old.
[Amtrak accident history by the numbers]
The wreck occurred at 9:21 p.m. Tuesday, more than two hours after the train left Washington’s Union Station bound for New York. At the time of the crash, the train was believed to be carrying 238 passengers and five crew members.
Nearly 32 million passengers a year ride Amtrak. Of that, more than a third — roughly 11.4 million passengers — use its Northeast Corridor service between Washington, New York and Boston, according to its Web site. New York and Washington’s Union Station are Amtrak’s two busiest stations.
The Philadelphia crash comes as financially beleaguered Amtrak faces the prospect that Congress may cut millions from its annual subsidy. Amtrak is now also highly likely to be hit by dozens of lawsuits from families of those killed and injured, leading to settlements or jury verdicts that could result in multi-million dollar awards.
But Amtrak may be protected from catastrophic financial damage by an earlier congressional action. Eighteen years ago, Congress set a $200 million cap on what Amtrak could be required to pay out for a single incident.
In 2009, a report by the Government Accountability Office reviewed the cap and said that “questions remain about the enforceability . . . of indemnifying an entity for its own gross negligence and willful misconduct.”
The Government Accountability Office cited a federal appeals court ruling that the cap could have the unintended consequence of undermining rail safety.
Halsey and Hedgpeth reported from Washington. Staff writer Julie Zauzmer contributed to this report.

Amtrak Crash: Train Accelerated Before Derailment, NTSB Says 

The speed of the ill-fated Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night accelerated right before the crash, authorities revealed today.
Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board have said the train was traveling in excess speeds of 100 mph at the time of the crash -- twice the speed limit in that section of track -- right before the crash.
The NTSB's Robert Sumwalt said the train's engineer, Brandon Bostian, has agreed to speak with investigators and they plan to do so sometime in "the next few days."
Missing Speed Control Tool Could Have Prevented Amtrak Derailment
Amtrak Engineer 'Very Distraught,' Doesn't Remember Crash, Attorney Says
Video Shows the Harrowing Moments Before the Amtrak Crash
Bostian, 32, of Queens, New York, was “very distraught” to learn that the crash killed passengers in the crash, his attorney, Robert Goggin, told ABC News. He added that Bostian voluntarily turned over a blood sample and his cell phone and is cooperating with authorities.
"I asked him if he had any medical issues,” Goggin said. “He said he had none. He's on no medications. ... He has no health issues to speak of and just has no explanation.”

Patrick Semansky/AP Photo
PHOTO: Emergency personnel work at the scene of a deadly train wreck, May 13, 2015, in Philadelphia.
Sumwalt said video from inside the cabin shows that 65 seconds before the crash, the train’s speed went above 70 mph. Just 16 seconds before the end of the recording, the train’s speed went above 100 mph, Sumwalt added.
"Seconds into the turn, we could see the train tilting 10 degrees to the right,” he said.
That's when the train crashed and the recording went blank. It is unclear, however, whether the train speed was increased manually, investigators said.
Sumwalt said he wants to know Bostian's account of “what he recalls leading into this tragic event."

PHOTO: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter speaks to the press about the deadly Amtrak train accident that occurred earlier in the week, May 14, 2015.
Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman today released a statement about the crash, saying the company takes "full responsibility and deeply apologizes for our role in this tragic event."
"Passenger railroading is at its core about people; the safety of our passengers and employees was, is and always will be our No. 1 priority," read the statement from Boardman. "Our goal is to fully understand what happened and how we can prevent a similar tragedy from occurring in the future."
Earlier today, Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer said that an eighth, and final, victim was found in the first car of the train at around 8 a.m. this morning with the help of cadaver dogs. He said that hydraulic tools were used "to open up the train a little bit" in order to retrieve the body. Laura Finamore, 47, and Bob Gildersleeve, Jr., 45, were the last victims to be identified.
Nutter added that they have now been able to confirm the whereabouts of all 243 people that investigators believed were on the train at the time of the crash.
Boardman said earlier in the day that he expects partial train service to be restored by Monday and the Northeast Corridor to be back up and running fully by Tuesday.
Amtrak now faces at least one lawsuit regarding Tuesday's crash. One of its employees, who was injured, filed the suit today, alleging Amtrak acted negligently leading up to the derailment.
The lawsuit alleges Bruce Phillips suffered severe injuries, including a "traumatic brain injury," and "was violently hurled about the railcar, striking his body on numerous parts of the railcar interior, before slamming onto the floor." He asked for more than $150,000 in anticipated lost wages, according to the lawsuit.
An Amtrak official declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Amtrak train sped up in its final minute before derailing, NTSB says 


Federal transportation investigators gave the first detailed look at the final seconds before an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia, saying it sped up for about a minute before approaching the curve at over 100 mph.
National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said an analysis of the train data recorder and a camera set up in the locomotive showed the train rapidly and steadily increasing its speed in the 65 seconds before the crash.
Sumwalt said the train was traveling above 70 mph 65 seconds before impact. At 43 seconds before impact it exceeded 80 mph. At 31 seconds it had increased to 90 mph. Sixteen seconds before impact it topped 100.
The speed limit before the curve is 80 mph but drops down to 50 going into the turn.

Train engineer Brandon Bostain has agreed to be interviewed about the derailment, Sumwalt said. Earlier, Bostain’s lawyer said the engineer had been injured and had limited memory of the accident, whose death toll rose to eight on Thursday.
“What we want to know is his account of what happened,” Sumwalt told reporters. He said the NTSB rules allow Bostain to bring a lawyer with him.
As he has in recent days, Sumwalt repeated that a safety system known as positive train control would have prevented Tuesday’s crash. “I can confidently say that an operational positive train control would have prevented this accident,” Sumwalt said.
Earlier, officials said they believe they have accounted for all 243 passengers and crew who were on the train heading to New York City from Washington on Tuesday night. Amtrak is hoping to restore limited train service by Monday and full service Tuesday.
At a midday news conference, Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer said rescuers, with the help of cadaver dogs, pulled the eighth body from the wreckage of the first train car on Thursday morning.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter said 43 of the more than 200 people who were injured remain hospitalized. He praised the search and rescue efforts and the cooperation among agencies working the crash site.
“It’s been a massive effort,” Nutter said of the search and rescue efforts. “It’s been painful.”
With all those aboard the train accounted for, Nutter said Amtrak would concentrate on cleanup. The mayor did not comment on the ongoing federal investigation.
The attorney for Bostian told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday that Bostian suffered a concussion, had 15 staples in his head and stitches in his leg, and suffered other injuries.

Bostian was “knocked out” by the crash, said attorney Robert Goggin, but recalls regaining consciousness, searching for his bag, and calling 911 on his cellphone. He said Bostian told him that he does not have any medical issues and that he immediately consented to a police request to have his blood tested. The test turned up “no drinking, no drugs, no medical conditions, nothing,” Goggin said.
Goggin also said Bostian's cellphone was put away in his bag and not “on” while he was operating the train, per Amtrak rules.
“He remembers driving the train,” Goggin said. “He remembers coming into the curve. He remembers attempting to reduce speed thereafter. He does not remember deploying the emergency brake.”
Even as investigators focused on Bostian, 32, and the speed at which the train was moving, officials pressed the need for positive train control system. It is in operation in parts of Amtrak’s busy Northeast Corridor, but not along the stretch of track where the train derailed.

Amtrak President and Chief Executive Joseph H. Boardman pledged that the company would complete installing the system on its rail lines by the end of the year, the deadline imposed by Congress. The system is complex and expensive, and meeting the deadline has been a challenge for rail authorities. The NTSB has been a strong backer of the controls.
In general, the system uses technology to analyze real-time information about speed and other factors so that the train can automatically react by braking.
Bostian’s actions in the moments before the crash, after Amtrak 188 left Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station at 9:10 p.m., have become the focal point as investigators question why the train was traveling at such a high speed. The speed limit on the stretch before the curve is 80 mph, dropping to 50 mph in the curve.
“Clearly it was reckless in terms of the driving by the engineer,” Nutter told CNN. “There’s no way in the world that he should have been going that fast into the curve.”

“I don’t know what was going on with him,” Nutter added, without mentioning the engineer by name. “I don’t know what was going on in the cab.”
On Thursday, Nutter sought to minimize the dispute over his comments, saying he spoke in the heat of the moment.
“I was expressive in my language,” Nutter said. “We have a certain way of speaking here in Philadelphia, but we need to put a period” to any dispute his comments may have brought.
Asked about comments by the engineer's attorney that his client cannot remember the derailment, Sumwalt said that would not be surprising for somebody who's been through a traumatic event.
Bostian has been an Amtrak engineer for four years and six months and, before that, was an Amtrak passenger conductor from 2006 to 2010, according to a LinkedIn profile under his name.
A few hours after the crash, Bostian changed his Facebook profile picture to a black rectangle as friends swarmed to his side and posted messages of support. The engineer’s hometown was listed as Memphis, Tenn.
“Perhaps the strongest message of support came Wednesday from one friend who lists himself as an Amtrak engineer.
“Hold your head up,” wrote Mark Schulthies. “What you know about yourself and those of us that know you is more important than anything being said in the media. Everyday we hold lives in our hands - 99.9% of the time it goes unappreciated and taken for granted. Yes, it happened to you but it could have been any one of us and you are not alone.”
Bostian attended the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo., where his LinkedIn profile said he attained a bachelor’s in business administration and management. Bostian was also a member of Acacia, a service fraternity, and in recent years, was an LGBT rights advocate while living in San Francisco and New York City, according to a news article.
Investigators still are waiting to speak with Bostian and have not said when that will happen. Attorney Goggin said he believed part of Bostian’s memory loss was due to his concussion.
“I can tell you he was distraught when he learned of the devastation,” Goggin said. “He was distraught.”
Susman reported from Philadelphia and Muskal from Los Angeles. Times staff writer Matt Pearce in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

NTSB Investigators Plan To Interview Engineer Of Derailed Amtrak Train

Investigators are sifting through the wreckage trying to determine what caused the deadly accident. The NTSB says the train was traveling more than twice the recommended speed for the area.
Here's one way to get a measure of how severe the Amtrak train derailment was in Philadelphia Tuesday night - 243 people were on board that train. At least seven were killed, and authorities say more than 200 were injured. That means that only a handful of people walked away from that train untouched, and we're going to hear now what the experience was like. NPR's Nathan Rott has the story.
NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Andrew Brenner was on the last of the seven cars on Amtrak's Northeast Regional number 188. He was heading to New York City for his first day on a new job.
ANDREW BRENNER: You know, I had my phone in my hand. I was reading some papers.
ROTT: He had his shoes off as the train pulled out of 30th Street Station in Philadelphia and picked up speed.
BRENNER: And clearly, we were going pretty fast entering into a curve. And, you know, you're sort of teetering on that edge of we're OK. And then immediately nope, we're not OK, and this is really bad.
ROTT: Brenner says he was thrown out of his seat and around the car.
BRENNER: You know, I'm like - you know, I'm a big guy - 5'8" 250 - and I got tossed like nothing.
ROTT: Brenner was one of nearly 250 people on board. One of the lucky ones, he says. No major injuries, no cuts; remarkable given what the train looked like a day later - twisted and turned, cars crushed and lying on their sides. Investigators were able to recover the train's data recorder from that wreckage early Wednesday. From an initial download of the information, they were able to determine that the engineer applied emergency brakes as the train entered that sharp left curve. Here's Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board.
ROBERT SUMWALT: Maximum authorized speed through this curve was 50 miles per hour. When the brake application was applied, the train was traveling at approximately 106 miles per hour.
ROTT: And slowed to only 102 miles per hour by the time the data recording stopped and the train derailed - still more than twice the speed allowed for that curve. The question then is why and how the train was moving so fast. Sumwalt says that they'll get some answers as they continue to pour over the data and when they interview the train's engineer.
SUMWALT: This person has gone through a very traumatic event, and we want to give him an opportunity to convalesce for a day or so before we interview him, but that is certainly a high priority for us.
ROTT: And a mystery for others. In an interview with CNN, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter called the engineer reckless and irresponsible.
MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER: There can be no reasonable, rational explanation for why you're doing 106 on a 50-mile an hour-rated curve.
ROTT: Passenger Andrew Brenner wasn't as fast to put sole blame on the engineer.
BRENNER: Regardless of whether it was the engineer's fault or Amtrak's or frankly Congress and the government for how little they fund Amtrak - I mean, it's the year 2015. We should have figured out rail travel by now.
ROTT: Investigators are expected to be on the site for the rest of the week. Nathan Rott, NPR News, Philadelphia.


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