(WASHINGTON) — The operator of an Amtrak train that derailed last year, killing eight and injuring more than 200, recalled the harrowing moments leading up to the crash at more than 100 mph, including thinking to himself “Okay well this is it, I’m going over,” according to new documents, after initially telling investigators that he couldn’t recall them.
The documents also say that black box data from the train showed that it was at or near full throttle in the 55 seconds before it hit a curve traveling at more than double the speed limit of 50 mph.
Brandon Bostian, the operator of the train that derailed in Philadelphia last May, told investigators on Nov. 10 that he remembered “holding onto the controls tightly” as the train rounded a curve, according to documents released by the NTSB on Monday.
“The engine felt as though it were tilting over,” he said, according to the documents.
He said that his body lurched to the right.
“I remember feeling my body lurch to the right…I remember feelings as though I was going too fast around a curve,” he added. “In response to that feeling, I put the train brake on.”
According to data from the train’s black box, 55 seconds before the accident curve, Bostian applied the full throttle, or “notch 8,” and stayed there for 30 seconds, the NTSB documents said.
He briefly dropped down to notch 7 before moving back up to notch 8 for 20 seconds. About three seconds before the derailment, while traveling at 106 mph — more than twice the 50 mph speed limit — he applied the emergency brake, according to the documents. Moments later, the 98-ton train derailed, traveling at 102 mph.
Bostian, who suffered a severe concussion, told investigators during a May 15 interview his “last memory” of the trip occurred well before the incident. He remains on unpaid leave and has not been criminally charged.
“After months passed after the accident, he now has a sudden memory. That, for the victims of this derailment, is going to be a bitter pill to swallow,” Robert Mongeluzzi, an attorney for the victims, said at a press conference Monday.
NTSB investigators wondered in interviews whether a radio transmission about a neighboring SEPTA train that was hit by a debris could have caused some “confusion.”
Bostian said that although the transmission made him “a little bit” concerned for his safety, he wasn’t “super concerned,” the documents said.
In his Nov. 10 interview, however, he told investigators concerned that he thought the SEPTA workers may have been on the tracks inspecting them and may not have been aware of what was going on.
According to the NTSB docket, Bostian’s toxicology report was negative for illicit drugs and alcohol, and his phone records show no data usage after he left the DC station. He told investigators he was not particularly tired or stressed that day, which was the final day of his 5-day workweek. He felt “comfortable” with the engine and “pretty comfortable” with the route.
An NTSB official has characterized him as “extremely cooperative” in the case.
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