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Train Accidents

Deadly 2015 Amtrak Crash Caused by Human Error?

April 20, 2016 | Michael Barasch

On May 12, 2015, an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring more than 200 others. The train from Washington to New York had been traveling at 106 mph, along a curve designed for speeds of up to 50 mph and jumped the track shortly after 9 p.m. On Monday, February 1, 2016, federal investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB, released documents showing they found no problems with the train or signals at the crash site.

The investigation will undoubtedly focus more sharply on the engineer, Brandon Bostian, 32, who has admitted accelerating the train up to 70 mph shortly before the crash, because he mistakenly believed he was in an 80-mph stretch of track. Amtrak has asserted that the permanent sign posting the speed restriction for the curve “properly displayed with the correct speed of 50 mph.” Mr. Bostian claims not to remember the crash but has stated he experienced no mechanical problems.

Mr. Bostian tested negative for drug and alcohol use the night of the derailment, and cellphone records indicate he was not using his phone to talk or text at the time of the crash. Investigators also looked into two incidents that same evening where trains not far from the crash site had been struck by flying objects. No passengers or crew were injured in those incidents.

The NTSB will not release its full findings and recommendations for several months, but at this point, there is little to indicate Amtrak can escape legal liability for the crash.

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