On Monday, December 18, an Amtrak train on its inaugural run was derailed in Pierce County, Washington, leaving three people dead and injuring dozens of others. Now, just over 24 hours later, people are getting impatient when it comes to the information that Amtrak is choosing to withhold. At this time, the name of the engineer on the 501 train has still not been released. However, it is believed that the engineer survived and that he is working with the NTSB, which has taken over the investigation.
According to the Washington Post, the engineer “was bleeding from the head after the wreck, and both eyes were swollen shut, according to dispatch audio.” His current condition is unknown.
NTSB spokeswoman T. Bella Dinh-Zarr confirmed that the Amtrak Cascades train was traveling around 80 miles per hour in a zone that had a speed limit of 30 miles per hour. The train was not equipped with positive train control, which “combines GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor trains and stop them from colliding, derailing or speeding,” according to CNN. Because of this lack of equipment, it would have been solely up to the engineer to slow the train ahead of the 30-mile-per-hour curve.
The NTSB has asked that people refrain from speculating, but social media is already calling for the head engineer on the train to be charged with negligence — many are even suggesting he be charged with murder. There are plenty of other things that may have prohibited the train from slowing down — faulty brakes, for example — but social media users have already put a guilty stamp on the one person whom they feel is solely responsible for Monday’s crash.
“If the engineer is found guilty of speeding, he needs to go to jail, and, AMTRAK which is on its last legs anyway, and refusing to install proper available safety equipment, should be ‘fined beyond recognition,'” wrote one Twitter user.
“Another incompetent engineer at the controls doesn’t mean failed infrastructure. It means Amtrak sucks,” wrote another.
“Why do you hire engineers that can’t drive? This would be humorous if not so tragic. Inaugural run, Amtrack admin onboard, blows right thru a 30mph speed zone. Engineer should face manslaughter charges along with his supervisor,” said a third.
The NTSB will work closely to analyze every piece of evidence, including interior-facing cameras that were on and presumably running during the time of the accident and the so-called “black box,” which is a data-recorder, not unlike what you would find on an aircraft. The NTSB will not leave any stone unturned and will interview the train’s crew members in the coming days. Although the crew had never been on that specific train route, they “would have been made familiar with the route’s terrain, topography and speed limits,” according to former chairman of the NTSB Deborah Hersman.