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Distraction Blamed for Amtrak 188 Wreck

20512219_sLast year, eight people were killed and more than 200 were injured in the derailment of Amtrak 188 near Philadelphia.

For nearly a year, investigators couldn’t determine what led to the tragic accident. The train’s engineer, Brendan Bostian, was known for his attention to safety. He was cleared of any suspicion that he may have been using a cell phone or that he may have been intoxicated at the time. Yet somehow, the train was traveling at more than twice the posted speed limit when it entered a sharp curve and derailed.

This week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released the conclusion that radio reports of a nearby train that was struck by rocks distracted Bostian, who was likely concerned about the condition of the other train’s engineer or the possibility that there were people on the tracks. The distraction caused him to momentarily lose his bearings, and accelerate the train to “roughly the speed that would have been appropriate after passing through the curve.”

“Excluding all the other suspects that we looked at, the best we could come up with was that he was distracted from this radio conversation about the damaged train and forgot where he was,” NTSB chairman Christopher Hart said.

Investigators view this accident as evidence that even the best engineers who adhere to all the rules are still fallible. Many have pointed out that Positive Train Control (PTC) technology (already installed on many miles of track in the Northeast Corridor, but not where the derailment occurred) could have compensated for the engineer’s failure and prevented the horrible wreck. PTC functions to automatically slow or stop a train traveling at an unsafe speed.

Is the NTSB Right?

Some survivors of the Amtrak 188 derailment, or those who lost loved ones, are dissatisfied with the NTSB’s findings. They are skeptical, at best, and say that the NTSB’s conclusion is based on speculation and cannot be proven; until there is more of a “concrete” explanation, many find it difficult to feel closure. Even those who can accept the cause of the engineer’s distraction maintain that PTC would have saved lives, had it been installed, and greater focus should be placed on safeguards like these.

If you or someone you love is hurt in a train, bus, car, truck, or other transportation accident, contact our office for a free consultation. We handle train accidents, truck accidents, bus crashes, and car crashes. Our personal injury lawyers will go over the details of your situation, at no charge, and help you understand your rights so that you can determine what to do next.

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