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NTSB: Train traveling 106 mph at time of deadly Amtrak crash

By
Amy R. Connolly and Danielle Haynes
Workers surround a car of an Amtrak train that crashed Tuesday night near Philadelphia. All seven cars of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 derailed near Frankford Junction. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Workers surround a car of an Amtrak train that crashed Tuesday night near Philadelphia. All seven cars of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 derailed near Frankford Junction. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

PHILADELPHIA, May 13 (UPI) -- An Amtrak train that derailed Tuesday near Philadelphia killing seven people was traveling more than 100 mph at the time of the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday.

NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt said the maximum speed through the curve where the train crashed was 50 mph.

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"When the engineer-induced brake application was applied, the train was traveling approximately 106 mph," he told reporters during a Wednesday news conference. "Three seconds later, when the data to the recorders terminated, the train speed was 102 mph."

The train was capable of traveling up to about 125 mph.

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He said the speeds were preliminary and subject to further validation.

The engineer driving the train was identified by his lawyer as 32-year-old Brandon Bostian, of Queens, N.Y. Bostian has worked for Amtrak for nearly nine years.

He was treated for injuries sustained during the crash and released to the Philadelphia Police Department. He initially spoke with investigators, but declined to provide a statement Tuesday night before requesting a lawyer.

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Earlier Wednesday afternoon, emergency workers discovered another body in the wreckage of the train, bringing the death toll up to seven.

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The body was discovered Wednesday as first responders sifted through the wreckage, a Philadelphia fire official said.

Investigators also recovered the black box event recorder from the passenger train, which could hold clues to what caused that crash that also injured at least 146 people.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said the box, which records data that includes train operations and performance, was taken to Amtrak's operations center in Delaware. Investigators said they are focusing on the speed.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigators began early Wednesday examining what cause one of the train's engine and all seven cars to overturn about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday en route from Washington, D.C., to New York.

At least one car was crumpled beyond recognition. The Federal Railroad Administration also sent a team of about eight investigators to the scene.

The FBI said there was no indication of terrorism.

The train was carrying 238 passengers and five crew members when it derailed.

Hours after the crash, investigators were still trying to determine if all on board had been evacuated. One of the difficulties in identifying passengers is that many carried passes that allowed them to ride without reservations, so there is no complete passenger manifest.

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"We need to match up the manifest with all the individuals who walked off," Nutter, said.

Amtrak was providing alternative service between Washington and Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Philadelphia, and New York and Boston. Amtrak also set up a family assistance center for the victims' families during the ongoing investigation.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of life from Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 that derailed north of Philadelphia Tuesday evening," the company said.

Four of the seven people who were killed were identified as U.S. Naval Academy midshipman Justin Zemser, 20, of Rockaway Beach in Queens, N.Y.; Associated Press video software architect Jim Gaines, 48, of Plainsboro, N.J.; Wells Fargo executive Abid Gilani; and ApprenNet CEO Rachel Jacobs, the mother of one who was initially reported missing.

The Northeast Corridor, which runs between Boston and Washington, D.C., is the busiest for Amtrak. It comes as Amtrak is pushing for funding to upgrade rail lines in the area and install advanced signaling systems that may prevent collisions and derailments. The area has a sharp curve that is speed-restricted to 55 miles per hour.

For commuters, who began to go to Amtrak stations in the Northeast early Wednesday, the damages and deaths from derailment became more of a reality.

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The wreck occurred near the same location where another train crashed on Sept. 6, 1943.

More than 50 people were killed and more than 100 injured when the Pennsylvania Railroad's Congressional Limited derailed. Eight of the cars on the Washington-to-New York express train loosened heading into a curve.

Many of those aboard were servicemen.

Andrew V. Pestano contributed to this report.

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