No mechanical failure in deadly Amtrak derailment; engineer’s cellphone under investigation: NTSB

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(National Transportation Safety Board)

(Photo: National Transportation Safety Board)

PHILADELPHIA – A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board found that the fatal Amtrak Derailment doesn’t appear to have been caused by a mechanical failure, and the investigation into several other factors — including the actions of the engineer — continues.

The report confirmed that Amtrak commuter train 188 was traveling at more than twice the speed limit when it took the turn near Frankford Junction near Philadelphia before the fatal May 12th derailment.

The engineer, 32-year-old Brandon Bostian, did apply the emergency brakes seconds before the train — streaking into the curve at 106 mph, instead of the maximum 50 mph — derailed at 9:21 p.m., the NTSB found.  All seven cars came off the tracks, killing eight and sending more than 200 to area hospitals.  Amtrak is estimating that the cost of repairing the damage will likely surpass $9.2 million.

NTSB investigators have so far been unable to find any evidence of malfunction between the train braking systems, signals and track geometry.  The weather was clear and warm that evening, with a westerly wind of 20 mph.

Using cell, data and text information, investigators are now working to lay out the time stamps from Bostian's cell phone records to determine if he might have been distracted in the moments leading up to the wreck.

Investigators are also looking into reports of vandals throwing rocks or other objects at Amtrak 188's windshield.  The thick glass -- which is heavily cracked -- was not damaged with a firearm, the FBI determined.  It's still unclear if the damage occurred before or during the derailment.  Two other Amtrak commuter trains, including a high-speed Acela, were hit by projectiles in the area where Amtrak train 188 derailed.

The NTSB investigation continues; the final report could take a year to finish.