Amtrak engineer has 'foggy memory' of deadly 2015 crash

Amtrak engineer has 'foggy memory' of deadly 2015 crash
© Getty Images

The engineer of an Amtrak train that crashed near Philadelphia last year has trouble remembering the moments before the fatal accident, according to interview transcripts that were released on Monday by the National Transportation Safety Board. 

"Unfortunately, the last memory I have on the way back is approaching and passing the platforms in North Philadelphia," the engineer, Brandon Bostian, told investigators in an interview that was conducted at Philadelphia's 30th Street Amtrak station three days after the May 12, 2015 crash, which killed eight people. 

"I remember turning on the bell, and the next thing that I remember is when I came to my senses I was standing up in the locomotive cab after the accident," Bostian continued.  

ADVERTISEMENT

The Amtrak train, which was traveling from Washington, D.C. to New York, was carrying more than 200 passengers and was traveling 106 miles per hour at the time of the accident, which was more than double the speed limit in the area of track.

Bostian told investigators from the NTSB in the days after the crash that he did not remember seeing any signs about speed restrictions ahead of the section of track where his train derailed. 

"In my work habits, I don't really look for the speed restriction signs because a lot of times they're either missing or they' re the wrong train type or they' re wrong," he said. "So that's why I don't recall if they have a speed restriction sign for that curve."  

Months later, Bostian said he still had a "foggy memory" of the deadly derailment of the train he was at the helm of. 

"As I said, once I pushed the throttle forward in an attempt to bring the train up to 80 miles an hour, I don't have any other memories until after the train was already in the curve," he said in a subsequent interview with the NTSB at the agency's Washington headquarters in November. 

"And the memory that happened from that point was, the memory from there is very vague," Bostian continued. "The only word, and I hesitate to use the word dream-like because it sounds like I was asleep and I don't believe that I was asleep at all. But kind of a very foggy memory as in I don't have, the memory doesn't includes much visual memory. I don't remember hearing much." 

Bostian told investigators in the second interview that he did not "remember anything from that point until after the train was already in the curve. He added that "there's a very good possibility" the speed adjustment he remembered could have happened on a previous trip "because that sort of mistake is something that could have happened on any trip."

"I can't tell you with accuracy, with certainty that that was on the night of the accident," he said. "But in my mind, that's what I believe. That's when I believe that memory was from." 

Bostian said in the initial interview with the NTSB that he did not "remember having any issues with the airbrakes" and that the train's previous trip from New York to Washington, D.C. was "uneventful" for most of its duration.   

"After leaving BWI Airport, we had a technical problem with the train set," he said in May. "I think the fault code was something along the lines of speed data not available. And so we did a lot of troubleshooting but then took a delay and arrived in D.C. late. 

"The only issue that I found, and I did not write it up because I normally write up issues at the end of the trip -- the only issue is relatively minor," Bostian continued of the departure for the trip back to New York.

"There was really excessive wind noise off the fireman' s side engineer window," he said. "So leaving D.C….when I got above, you know, 70 or so, it got really loud and so I tried to make sure that the locking mechanism was fully secured." 

Authorities said five people died at the scene of the crash and a sixth died after arriving at a local hospital. Two additional passengers were also later declared dead.

Bostian told investigators that he called for help as soon as he realized the accident had occurred. 

"I got my cellphone out of my bag. I turned it on. When it came on, while it was powering up, I think I got off the engine and walked towards some passengers that I heard," he said. "When the phone came on, I turned off airplane mode, and then when it reconnected with the network, I called 911 and I said…that a train had derailed. And at the time I did not know what my location."

The NTSB has previously said Bostian was not using his cell phone before the crash. 

The full interview transcript can be read here and here