The National Transportation Safety Board met Tuesday in Washington to present its finding on the cause of last year's Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia that killed eight people. The meeting followed media reports Monday that the NTSB investigation suggested that the engineer was "distracted by radio transmissions," the reports citing unnamed federal officials briefed on the matter.
Tuesday the NTSB made its results public. Below are five key findings from the meeting about the deadly crash that took place May 12, 2015.
— FOX & Friends (@foxandfriends) May 17, 2016
Engineer Likely Distracted by Radio Talk
Federal officials indeed concluded Tuesday what reports suggested the day prior — that the engineer in the May 2015 crash, Brandon Bostian, likely lost "situational awareness" during the derailment. He sped up going through a curve because he was distracted by chatter on the radio earlier that detailed a Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority commuter train getting struck by rocks, federal investigators concluded.
According to Philly.com, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Steve Jenner said at the hearing:
"In sum, staff concluded that the Amtrak train engineer accelerated the train to 106 miles-per-hour, without slowing the train . . . due to his loss of situational awareness, likely because his attention was diverted to an emergency situation".
Lots of Chatter About Rock Strike
Early in the investigation much of the focus was on if the train had been hit by a rock or another projectile. It was not, but Philly.com reported that during the time it took the train to pull out of Philadelphia to the site of the crash — just eight miles outside the city — Bostian would have heard about two dozen messages about the city's commuter train.
Train Going Twice the Speed Limit
The train was moving at clip above 100 miles per hour at a curve with a 50 mph limit. Engineers are required to know the speed limit at each point along a route. Ahead of the derailment Bostian had the train moving at a speed that would have been appropriate on a stretch of track that followed the curve.
'PTC' Could Have Prevented Tragedy
While Bostian was distracted, NTSB chairman Christopher Hart said even the best engineers are fallible and that "it is a world in which the engineer relies in part on the memorized details of the route and a world in which a loss of awareness can take a terrible toll."
The stretch of track where the derailment happened was not equipped with positive train control, or PTC, which would have likely stopped the crash from happening. PTC is a safety net system that can slow or stop trains. It has since been installed on all Amtrak tracks between Washington and New York.
Ntsb if a PTC system had been active there this train would not have derailed
— Jason Laughlin (@jasmlaughlin) May 17, 2016
Hart: Since 2008 we have seen 37 fatalities and hundreds of injuries that could have been prevented with PTC. #Amtrak188
— NTSB (@NTSB) May 17, 2016
Much of Nation's Tracks Lack 'PTC'
The most common cause of train crashes is human error, an NTSB board member said Tuesday. PTC can help prevent errors, but while the Northeast Corridor has the system installed, much of the country does not. Initially PTC was supposed to be installed on major tracks nationwide by the end of last year. Congress last year gave the railroads until at least 2018 to have it installed.
"The deadline that really matters is not 2018, and it is not some later date made possible by an additional extension," Hart said, according to Philly.com. "The deadline that really matters is the date of the next PTC-preventable tragedy."
Hart: "End this list of PTC-preventable fatalities and injuries now." #Amtrak188
— NTSB (@NTSB) May 17, 2016