Philadelphia Amtrak Crash in 2015 Occurred As Engineer Distracted by Radio: NTSB Report

An Amtrack train crash that occurred last year near Philadelphia, which left eight dead and more than 200 injured, appears to have occurred because the engineer was distracted by radio dispatchers, according to investigators. 

On May 12, 2015, Amtrak Regional Train 188 derailed when it took a 50 m.p.h. turn at speeds in excess of 100 m.p.h.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will meet today to determine the most likely cause of the accident, according to a press release. However, NBC News reports that unnamed sources indicate the crash may have been a case of distracted driving.

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According to the report, the engineer, Brandon Bostian, was distracted by radio traffic at the time of the crash. He suffered a concussion in the accident, and has told investigators that he cannot remember anything that occurred between leaving North Philadelphia station and the train accident, a short time later.

Preliminary reports indicate that Bostian approached the turn at 106 m.p.h. and hit the emergency brakes as it was entering the turn. However, the train was still doing more than twice the 50 m.p.h. speed limit when it derailed en route from Washington, D.C. to New York, sending the locomotive and all seven passenger cars off the tracks.

That section of the tracks did not have a positive control system used across the region to automatically slow trains down when travelling at excessive speed. Congress mandated that all railroads in the U.S. have such a system in place by the end of 2015.

Some critics say the accident could have been avoided if a second engineer had been present on the train, which would have reduced the risk that the operator would have maintained the excessive speed heading into the dangerous part of the train tracks.

Experts also told NBC News that radio traffic from dispatchers is a known problem that can distract train engineers, and the unnamed source said that appears to be the case in this accident as well.

As a result of the accident, more than 60 personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits have been filed in federal courts nationwide. The cases were consolidated in November in federal court in Philadelphia to reduce duplicate discovery, avoid conflicting rulings and serve the convenience of the court, parties and witnesses.

The lawsuits name the National Passenger Railroad Corporation, more commonly known as Amtrak, and Brian Bostian, the train’s operator, as defendants. They allege that Bostian failed to slow the train down to proper speeds when navigating around a dangerous turn in the tracks, and also claim that Amtrak failed to equip the train with adequate safety technology to prevent such an accident.


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