The first funeral was planned Friday after this week’s deadly Amtrak derailment, while federal investigators try to find out why the train sped up in the last minute before it derailed. Amtrak’s top official said the national passenger railroad takes full responsibility for the crash that killed eight and injured more than 200.
Joseph Boardman, Amtrak president and CEO, said in a letter on Amtrak’s official blog that it is cooperating fully in an investigation into the Philadelphia accident in which the train was moving at more than twice the allowed speed when it shot off the rails.
“With truly heavy hearts, we mourn those who died. Their loss leaves holes in the lives of their families and communities,” Boardman wrote. “Amtrak takes full responsibility and deeply apologizes for our role in this tragic event.”
The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday the Washington-to-New York train sped up from 70 mph (112 kph) until it reached more than 100 mph at a sharp bend where the maximum speed is supposed to be 50 mph.
Board member Robert Sumwalt said it’s unclear whether the speed was increased manually by engineer Brandon Bostian. So far, investigators have found no problems with the track, the signals or the locomotive, and the train was running on time, Sumwalt said.
Bostian refused to talk to police on Wednesday, authorities said. But on Thursday, Sumwalt said that Bostian had agreed to be interviewed by the NTSB and that the meeting would take place in the next few days.
The Philadelphia district attorney’s office said it is investigating and will decide whether to bring charges.
Bostian’s lawyer, Robert Goggin, told ABC News that his client suffered a concussion in the wreck, needed 15 staples in his head and has “absolutely no recollection whatsoever” of the crash. Goggin also said Bostian had not been using his cellphone, drinking or using drugs.
“He remembers coming into the curve. He remembers attempting to reduce speed and thereafter he was knocked out,” said Goggin. He said his client “cooperated fully” with police and told them “everything that he knew,” immediately consenting to a blood test and surrendering his cellphone.
Bostian became an Amtrak engineer in 2010, four years after landing a job as a conductor, according to his LinkedIn profile. He lives in New York City.
“I have nothing but good things to say about Brandon,” said Will Gust, who belonged to a fraternity with Bostian in college. “He is a very conscientious person, one of the most upstanding individuals that I know.”
Stefanie McGee, a friend of Bostian’s, said he always wanted to be an engineer or a conductor.
“He would go on vacation and bring back subway maps,” she recalled Thursday. “He would go places with his family and he would talk about the trains instead of the places.”
Officials believe they have now accounted for all 243 passengers and crew members who were thought to have been aboard, the Philadelphia mayor said, with 43 still hospitalized Thursday. Temple University Hospital said it had six patients in critical condition, all of whom were expected to pull through.
The first funeral was being held Friday morning, with services for U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman Justin Zemser, 20.
Amtrak, meanwhile, said limited train service between Philadelphia and New York should resume on Monday, with full service by Tuesday. Amtrak carries 11.6 million passengers a year along the Northeast Corridor, which runs between Washington and Boston.
Story by the Associated Press