Death toll in Pa. Amtrak wreck hits 8
All 243 passengers and crew aboard the train have been accounted for
The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA — The death toll from the Amtrak wreck rose to eight with the discovery of another body in a mangled railcar Thursday, while a lawyer for the train’s engineer said his client has no recollection of the crash and wasn’t on his cellphone or using drugs or alcohol.
A cadaver dog found the eighth body in the wreckage of the first passenger car Thursday morning, nearly 36 hours after the crash, Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer said.
Officials believe they have now accounted for all 243 passengers and crew members who were thought to have been aboard the train, Mayor Michael Nutter said.
Amtrak, meanwhile, said limited train service between Philadelphia and New York should resume on Monday, with full service by Tuesday.
Federal investigators have said the train was barreling through the city at 106 mph before it ran off the rails along a big curve where the speed limit drops to 50 mph. But they don’t know why it was going so fast.
“I don’t think that any commonsense, rational person would think that it was OK to travel at that level of speed knowing that there was a pretty significant restriction on how fast you could go through that turn,” the mayor said Thursday, repeating criticism of the engineer he made a day earlier.
Lawyer Robert Goggin told ABC News that engineer Brandon Bostian, 32, of New York City, suffered a concussion in Tuesday night’s wreck and had 15 staples in his head, along with stitches in one leg.
“He remembers coming into the curve. He remembers attempting to reduce speed and thereafter he was knocked out,” Goggin said. But he said Bostian does not recall anything out of the ordinary and does not remember using the emergency brake, which investigators say was applied moments before the crash.
The lawyer said the next thing the engineer remembered was coming to, looking for his bag, retrieving his cellphone and calling 911 for help. He said the engineer’s cellphone was off and stored in his bag before the accident, as required.
“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 will probably return once the head injury subsides.
Goggin said that his client “cooperated fully” with police and told them “everything that he knew,” immediately consenting to a blood test and surrendering his cellphone. He said he had not been drinking or doing drugs. Nutter said Thursday that the engineer spoke only briefly to officers, telling them he did not want to be interviewed.
Federal accident investigators also want to talk to Bostian but planned to give him a day or two to recover from the shock of the accident.
Goggin said his client was distraught when he learned of the devastation.
The engineer hit the emergency brakes moments before the crash but slowed the train to only 102 mph by the time the locomotive’s black box stopped recording data, according to Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board. The speed limit just before the bend is 80 mph, he said.
Within hours of the wreck, Bostian’s Facebook profile picture was changed to a black rectangle. Friends who seemingly knew about his role in the crash before his name publicly surfaced rallied to his side.
“Hold your head up,” wrote a Facebook friend whose profile identifies him as an Amtrak engineer living in California. “Yes, it happened to you but it could have been any one of us and you are not alone.”
Bostian was an Amtrak conductor for four years before becoming an engineer in December 2010, according to his LinkedIn profile. The Tennessee native graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management in 2006, the university said.
He was obsessed with trains as he grew up, said Stefanie McGee, a friend who is now the city clerk in Bostian’s hometown of Bartlett, a suburb of Memphis. She said Bostian talked about wanting to become an engineer.
“He would go on vacation with his family and come back talking about the train ride,” she said. “He would go to New York and get a map of the subway routes, and that’s what he was excited about.”
No one answered the door at an address listed for Bostian in Queens.
More than 200 people aboard the Washington-to-New York train were injured in the wreck, which happened in a decayed industrial neighborhood not far from the Delaware River just before 9:30 p.m.
Forty-three people remained hospitalized, according to the mayor. Temple University Hospital said it had eight patients in critical condition, all of whom were expected to pull through.
“All individuals we had any reason to believe were on that train have now been accounted for and we know their whereabouts completely,” the mayor said.
The dead included an Associated Press employee, a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, a Wells Fargo executive, a college administrator and the CEO of an educational startup.
The tragedy has led to new demands for the installation of technology known as positive train control, which uses GPS, wireless radio and computers to prevent trains from going over the speed limit.
Amtrak has equipped most of its heavily used Northeast Corridor with positive train control, but not the section where the accident happened.
On Thursday, Amtrak CEO Joseph H. Boardman vowed that positive train control will be installed along the entire Northeast Corridor by the end of 2015, the deadline set by Congress.
Amtrak carries 11.6 million passengers a year along the Northeast Corridor, which runs between Washington and Boston.
The notoriously tight curve is not far from the site of one of the deadliest train wrecks in U.S. history: the 1943 derailment of the Congressional Limited, bound from Washington to New York. Seventy-nine people were killed.
In 2013, four people were killed in a derailment in the Bronx when a New York City commuter train took a 30 mph curve at 82 mph. NTSB investigators said the sleep-deprived engineer in that crash had nodded off at the controls because of undiagnosed sleep apnea combined with a drastic shift in his work schedule.