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Amtrak Engineer Not On Cellphone Before Philadelphia Derailment, NTSB Says

Emergency personnel work at the scene the day after a deadly train derailment on May 12 in Philadelphia.
Patrick Semansky
Emergency personnel work at the scene the day after a deadly train derailment on May 12 in Philadelphia.

The engineer at the controls of the Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia last month was not using his cellphone during the time he was operating train No. 188.

The National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday released a long-awaited analysis of cellphone records to determine whether the engineer was distracted at the time of the May 12 accident. Eight people died and some 200 others were injured in the derailment.

The NTSB states:

"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. Amtrak's records confirm that the engineer did not access the train's Wi-Fi system while he was operating the locomotive."

The NTSB could not determine whether the phone was in "airplane mode" or was powered off. The safety board said the engineer, Brandon Bostian, provided the phone's pass code to allow the board to access the data.

The train was traveling at an estimated 106 mph going into a turn rated for 50 mph just before it left the tracks north of Philadelphia's 30th Street Station. Bostian's lawyer said the engineer suffered a concussion in the crash and doesn't remember the accident.

The analysis of Bostian's cellphone records was made more "complicated than anticipated," the NTSB says, because the cellphone carrier "has multiple systems that log different types of phone activity, some of which are based in different time zones."

Why the train was going more than twice the allowed speed remains a mystery. Investigators have found no mechanical problems with the train, and the track had recently been inspected.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.
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