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NTSB: Amtrak engineer not on cellphone before deadly crash

NTSB: Amtrak engineer not on cellphone before deadly crash

The engineer of an Amtrak train involved in deadly accident in Philadelphia was not using his cell phone before the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday. 

People speculated the engineer was using his cellphone, after investigators revealed the train reached speeds of 106 mph before it derailed near Philadelphia.

The NTSB said Wednesday that it confirmed the engineer was not on his phone in the seconds before the crash, however. 

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“Analysis of the phone records does not indicate that any calls, texts, or data usage occurred during the time the engineer was operating the train,” the agency said in a statement. “Amtrak’s records confirm that the engineer did not access the train’s Wi-Fi system while he was operating the locomotive.” 

The train, Amtrak’s Northeast Regional Train 188, was traveling from Washington, D.C., to New York when it derailed last month. 

The train was carrying 238 passengers and five crew members at the time of the accident, according to Amtrak officials. Eight people were killed and more than 200 injured. 

The crash has touched off debate in Washington about Amtrak’s funding and a mandate for an automated train control system that investigators have said could have prevented the deadly accident. 

Lawmakers have criticized the NTSB for taking so long to make a definitive determination about whether the engineer's cellphone use played a role in the crash. 

The agency said Wednesday that it conducted a thorough examination of the engineer's cellphone records to determine if it was being used in the second before the deadly accident.  

“To determine whether the phone was in ‘airplane mode’ or was powered off, investigators in the NTSB laboratory in Washington have been examining the phone’s operating system, which contains more than 400,000 files of meta-data,” the NTSB said. “Investigators are obtaining a phone identical to the engineer’s phone as an exemplar model and will be running tests to validate the data.” 

The Northeast Corridor is home to Amtrak’s most heavily traveled routes, including the New York to Philadelphia service that was been affected by last month’s crash. Amtrak has said 11.6 million of its 30.9 million passengers last year took trips on trains operating in the Northeast Corridor, compared to 14.6 million on shorter, state-specific routes and 4.5 million on long-distance trains.