Engineer wasn't using cellphone in deadly Amtrak derailment, investigators say

Engineer wasn't using cellphone in Amtrak derailment that killed eight passengers, NTSB says

The engineer of an Amtrak passenger train that derailed, killing eight passengers, was not using his cellphone during the Washington-New York run, investigators said Wednesday as they issued an update of the ongoing investigation into last month's crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board posted the results of its analysis of the engineer’s cellphone and related records, including texts, data and cellphone tower transmission activity records from the phone carrier; and records from Amtrak’s onboard Wi-Fi system.

Using his cellphone would have been in violation of federal railway rules.

"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 NTSB said in a statement posted on its website Wednesday morning. "Amtrak’s records confirm that the engineer did not access the train’s Wi-Fi system while he was operating the locomotive."

The NTSB's revelations remove one possible cause of the excessive speed that led Amtrak Train 188 to derail on May 12 in Philadelphia. The train was traveling at more than 100 mph as it entered a curve zoned for 50 mph.

Engineer Brandon Bostian's lawyer, Robert Goggin, had maintained all along that Bostian's cellphone was off and packed in his bag.  

The agency reviewed the phone records to determine if the device was being used for texts or voice calls while the train was in motion. The train left Washington shortly after 7 p.m. EDT and the crash occurred at 9:21 p.m.

The Federal Railroad Administration has banned the use of cellphones by train engineers since 2008, following the collision of a Metrolink commuter train and a freight train in Los Angeles that killed 25 people. Investigators said the Metrolink engineer, who was killed, had been texting and ran a red signal.

Bostian, 32, of Queens, N.Y., has been an Amtrak engineer since December 2010. Investigators said he had been working the Washington-New York route for several weeks at the time of the crash. The engineer has not commented publicly on the incident, but the NTSB described him as cooperative during interviews with investigators.

Goggin said Bostian was not on medication and did not report extreme fatigue or other problems before the crash. He also said Bostian, who suffered head and other injuries in the derailment, had no recollection of the derailment.

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 tina.susman@latimes.com

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