Did Object Hit Amtrak Train Before Derailing?

The FBI has been summoned to examine the Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia Tuesday night after reports that the Amtrak train’s windshield may have been damaged by a projectile.

At a news conference Friday evening, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member Robert Sumwalt announced that investigators had interviewed two assistant conductors from the Amtrak train. One had said that shortly after leaving the Philadelphia station, she heard an engineer from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), which operates the local trains, report his train being hit.

“She recalled that the SEPTA engineer had reported to the train dispatcher that he had either been hit by a rock or shot at,” Sumwalt said. “And that the SEPTA engineer said that he had a broken windshield, and that he placed his train into emergency stop.”

The assistant conductor told investigators she believed the Amtrak train had also been hit. Sumwalt described a circular pattern of damage on the windshield.

According to Andrew Busch, a spokesman for SEPTA, there was an incident involving a damaged windshield to one of its trains on Tuesday night when the Amtrak derailment occurred.

“A SEPTA train was damaged by a projectile in a separate incident, but all of our indications is that this is not connected to the Amtrak incident,” said Busch, who described it as an act of vandalism. “Unfortunately it does happen occasionally that we get juveniles throwing rocks.”

Amtrak engineer Brandon Bostian, who was at the controls Tuesday night, suffered multiple injuries, including a concussion, and doesn’t remember anything after ringing the train’s bell as it left the Philadelphia station.

Bostian had been interviewed for the first time Friday and had told NTSB investigators he didn’t recall if the train had been hit by a projectile. Bostian said he didn’t recall talking to another engineer or anything about the derailment which killed eight people and injured more than 200.

Sumwalt said investigators will study the data from the black box to determine the movement of the Amtrak train’s throttle to rule out a “mechanical anomaly.” A cracked windshield doesn’t explain the train’s sudden acceleration from 70 to 106 miles per hour. The Amtrak train’s throttle is manual and must be physically moved by someone to control speed.

Initial findings of the train’s movements showed that there was only a four-mile-per-hour deceleration after the emergency brake had been applied. Investigators plan to conduct tests on the brakes to discover if they were operating properly.

[Image source: ABC News ]