Last May, 258 passengers were traveling from Washington D.C. to New York aboard Amtrak train 188 when tragedy struck. While traveling through Philadelphia, several passengers recall being concerned about the speed at which the train was traveling as it approached a sharp curve in the tracks. As the train entered the curve, which had a posted speed limit of 50 MPH, it was clocked traveling at 106 MPH.
The seven-car train derailment was one of the worst in U.S. history and resulted in the deaths of eight passengers and the injuries of more than 200. As federal investigators attempted to determine the cause of the crash, they turned their focus to the 32-year-old train engineer named Brandon Bostian, who was behind the controls at the time of the derailment.
While Bostian suffered a concussion in the accident, investigators were able to interview him in the days following the accident. Statements made during these interviews were highlighted in a report that was recently made public by the National Transportation Safety Board and, while the agency didn't outright blame Bostian, the report "left open the possibility...that human error led to the crash."
In the immediate wake of the accident, drug and alcohol tests conducted on Bostian were negative and cellphone records indicate he only used his cellphone to report the crash after it occurred. Additionally, in their examination of the damaged train, investigators ruled out mechanical issues or failures as potentially contributing to the derailment.
In statements provided by Bostian after the accident, he admitted to investigators that, immediately prior to the crash, he was attempting to accelerate from 70 MPH to 80 MPH, which he believed was the posted "speed limit in the stretch before the curve." Bostian's admission that he was knowingly traveling in excess of the posted 50 MPH in the moments before the crash is likely to be a central argument used in the lawsuits of several of the passengers and family members who were injured or who lost family members in the crash.