Washington, D.C. (WTXF) - National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt summed up the derailment of Amtrak train 188 in Philadelphia last May, simply: "He went-- in a matter of seconds-- from distraction to disaster." "He" was Brandon Bostian, the train's engineer.
Federal crash investigators believe Bostian was distracted by numerous radio transmissions about a rock thrown through the windshield of a nearby SEPTA commuter train just after 9 p.m. on May 12, 2015.
They believe that distraction-- called "loss of situational awareness-- led him to believe he was already past a sweeping curve at Frankford Junction, and safe to accelerate to over 100 mph. But the curve lay ahead, and the train, traveling at twice the posted speed, derailed, killing 8 passengers and injuring nearly 200 others.
The NTSB said there was a contributing factor in the crash-- the absence of technology called Positive Train Control. It would have automatically slowed the train down as it entered the curve, but was not yet installed at the time of the accident.
"If PTC had been in place at Frankford Junction" that night, said NTSB investigator-in-charge Ted Turpin, "we would not be here today."
Amtrak officials were on hand for the Washington, DC meeting, to hear a long list of safety recommendations from the feds.
"We'll make adjustments," said Amtrak president Joe Boardman after the meeting. "We'll talk with people and find solutions to these things."
Dr. Duy Nguyen was also in attendance. A Temple University professor of social work, Nguyen was on his way home to Teaneck, NJ when his train car toppled, leaving him with cuts and a back injury.
"I'm angry that I have to sit here and be part of it," he said of the crash investigation. "Part of me is mad at Amtrak. I relive it every day."