Speeding train driver has no memory of fatal crash
Investigators do not yet know why an Amtrak passenger train was moving at more than twice the allowed speed when it ran off the rails on a sharp curve and killed at least eight people, and the train's engineer has so far refused to speak to police.
It was the deadliest US train accident in nearly seven years.
While questions grew about why a track technology that would have prevented the train from going over the speed limit had not yet been installed as planned, the lawyer for the engineer said yesterday that his client did not even remember Tuesday night's crash.
"He remembers coming into the curve. He remembers attempting to reduce speed and, thereafter, he was knocked out," Robert Goggin told ABC.
He said the last thing 32-year-old Brandon Bostian remembered was coming to, looking for his bag, retrieving his cellphone and calling for help.
Googin said his client, who suffered a concussion and had 15 staples in his head, was distraught when he learned of the devastation. He said he believes his client's memory will return once the head injury subsides.
The derailment happened along the country's busiest rail corridor between Washington and Boston, where the national passenger railway carries 11.6 million passengers a year.
Amtrak suspended all services until further notice along the Philadelphia-to-New York stretch as investigators gather evidence. The shutdown has forced thousands of people to find other ways to travel.
Despite pressure from Congress and safety regulators, Amtrak had not installed along that section of track a technology that uses GPS, wireless radio and computers to prevent trains from going over the speed limit.
The train was moving at 106mph (170kph) before it ran off the rails along a sharp curve where the speed limit drops to 50mph (80kph), federal investigators have said.
The engineer applied the emergency brakes moments before the crash, but slowed the train to only 102mph (164kph) by the time the locomotive's black box stopped recording data, said Robert Sumwalt, of the National Transportation Safety Board. The speed limit just before the bend is 80mph (128kph), he said.
Most of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor is equipped with what is called positive train control.
"Based on what we know right now, we feel that had such a system been installed in this section of track this accident would not have occurred," Mr Sumwalt said.
The engineer refused to give a statement to law enforcement, police said. Mr Sumwalt said federal accident investigators want to talk to him but will give him a day or two to recover.
More than 200 people aboard the Washington-to-New York train were injured in the crash. Passengers crawled out the windows of the toppled carriages, many of them with broken bones and burns.
One Dublin woman had a lucky escape but was left badly shaken by the tragedy.
Eimear Kelleher, from Lucan, was on the train returning to Brooklyn in New York where she lives.
"Every bone in my body hurts," she tweeted yesterday.
"Scariest moment of my life. Luckily I'm just a little banged up. Not everyone was as blessed.
"The train started to speed up and all of a sudden my cup of tea fell and then my laptop went and I was upside down lying on the ceiling."
Two men helped her to escape from the carriage, which had begun to fill up with black smoke.