Preliminary Amtrak Crash Report: NTSB Says No Equipment Issue

In a preliminary report on the Amtrak crash, federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board found there was no issue with the braking system of the train or the signals and track at the site of the May 12 crash.

On the day of the crash, Amtrak train 188 was traveling north from Washington, D.C. to New York City when it derailed at 9:21 p.m. north of Philadelphia. The train was entering a curve with a speed limit of 50 mph; however, the train was speeding at 106 mph before the emergency brake system was engaged. Eight passengers were killed and the engineer, Brandon Bostian, was injured. More than 200 passengers were taken to the hospital.

Investigators with the NTSB are checking cellphone records of the engineer, Brandon Bostian, to see if he was using his phone while the train was moving.

“Although the records appear to indicate that calls were made, text messages sent, and data used on the day of the accident, investigators have not yet made a determination if there was any phone activity during the time the train was being operated. Investigators are in the process of correlating the time stamps in the engineer’s cellphone records with multiple data sources including the locomotive event recorder, the locomotive outward facing video, recorded radio communications, and surveillance video.”

Robert Goggin, Brandon Bostian’s attorney, claims Bostian followed federal railway rules by having his cellphone turned off and put away during the Amtrak trip.

Reports of vandals throwing rocks or other objects at passing trains around the time of the Amtrak crash are also being investigated by the NTSB. The windshield’s damage could either be from a thrown rock or the crash itself, but it hasn’t been determined which is the cause yet.

At a congressional hearing in Washington on Tuesday, the same day the crash report came out, Amtrak President and Chief Executive Joseph Boardman told the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, “This accident is so shocking because it’s so unexpected. For 28 years, we have operated safely, without an accident-related passenger fatality, and we are now incorporating the lessons of this tragic failure.”

The Amtrak President also said while safety systems are in place, the risk of human error remains.

“We have redundant systems designed and built into everything, and they protect every movement–but at the end of the day, it is people who operate these trains and people make mistakes.”

“Nothing is impossible, but we try to guard against the full range of contingencies. We rely on these layered and redundant systems, but there’s one thing that we have never been able to completely overcome and that is the risk of human error. There is also a risk of a gap in even the most tightly woven net.”

Why the Amtrak train was traveling at 106 mph before the crash happened when the speed limit was 50 mph remains a mystery. The NTSB said it could take a year for the investigation into the Amtrak crash to be finished.

What do you think of the preliminary findings in the report on the Amtrak crash?

[Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images]