Investigation: Distracted Engineer Caused Deadly Amtrak Crash

He was thinking about a nearby emergency when he sped into a curve
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted May 17, 2016 12:33 PM CDT
Investigation: Distracted Engineer Caused Deadly Amtrak Crash
Emergency personnel work at the scene of the May derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The Amtrak crash last May in Philadelphia that left eight people dead and 200 or so injured was caused by a distracted engineer who likely forgot where he was and sped up instead of slowing down, the Philadelphia Enquirer reports. That was the conclusion offered Tuesday by a National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the incident. Engineer Brandon Bostian had heard 24 radio messages in six minutes about another train being hit by a rock nearby. He was busy thinking about that possible emergency and lost track of where he was on the track. He accelerated to 106mph into a curve with a 50mph speed limit. An investigator tells the AP the acceleration makes sense if Bostian thought he had already passed that curve.

"It is a world in which the engineer relies in part on the memorized details of the route, and a world in which a loss of awareness can take a terrible toll," the NTSB chairman tells the Inquirer. Bostian, who was suspended without pay, had a "sterling work record" prior to the crash, NBC News reports. "This was a standard human error," an investigator says. [Engineers] have no more of the right stuff than pilots or anyone else." The NTSB also put some of the blame on the rail industry for being slow to implement equipment that automatically slows speeding trains. It also found "inadequate requirements for occupant protections in the likelihood of a train overturning." It wants Amtrak to look into seat belts and better methods of securing luggage. (More train crash stories.)

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