PHILADELPHIA — The Amtrak train that crashed Tuesday sped up from 70 mph to more than 100 mph in less than a minute before derailing, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday.
There was no explanation for that acceleration, the NTSB said, but the train’s engineer has agreed to be interviewed by federal investigators.
As the investigation continued, a cadaver-sniffing dog found an eighth victim beneath the twisted wreckage.
Investigators Thursday worked to piece together the train’s final seconds — particularly why it hurtled into a curved section of track at 102 mph, more than twice the posted maximum speed for the bend. Although the engineer slammed on the emergency brakes, it was not soon enough, and the Washington-to-New York train careened off the rails in a jumble of wrenched metal, blown-out windows and bloodied survivors.
NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said the train’s forward-looking camera revealed that it was traveling at 70 mph 65 seconds before the derailment. Twelve seconds later, it bumped up to 80 mph, the authorized maximum in the stretch of track before the curve. Twelve seconds after that, it jumped to 90 mph, and 16 seconds later, it accelerated to 100 mph.
“Is that a rapid acceleration?” Sumwalt said. “I think that’s a subjective [characterization]. What’s rapid? What’s not rapid? I just lay the figures out there, let them stand on their own.”
A few seconds into the turn, “we could see the train tilting approximately 10 degrees to the right,” he said, “and then the recording went blank.”
There were conflicting reports Thursday on how forthcoming the train’s engineer, Brandon Bostian, 32, had been when interviewed by police shortly after the derailment. But Sumwalt said Bostian had agreed to speak with investigators in coming days.
In such cases, Sumwalt said he preferred to start off posing no questions but rather presenting witnesses a figurative “blank sheet of paper, and allow them to paint us a picture of what they recall.”
“And then we’ll start asking questions,” he said.
Bostian’s attorney, Robert S. Goggin, told ABC News that his client suffered a concussion and has no memory of the few seconds immediately before the wreck that killed eight people and injured more than 200.
He said Bostian was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and his cellphone was off and stored in a bag — per regulations. He also said Bostian consented to give a blood sample to authorities.
“As a result of his concussion, he has absolutely no recollection whatsoever of the events,” Goggin told ABC. He said he believes the engineer’s memory may return once the head injury subsides.
Goggin did not respond to calls to his office Thursday.
The discovery of an eighth body Thursday appeared to account for all 243 people on board the New York-bound train, said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (D).
The newly recovered body was identified as that of Bob Gildersleeve Jr., 45, of Elkridge, Md.
Two other victims were identified. The family of 47-year-old Laura Finamore of Douglaston, N.Y., confirmed Thursday afternoon that she was among the dead.
The Office of the Consul General of Italy confirmed that Giuseppe Piras, 41, also was killed.
Meanwhile, attention turned to whether a safety system would have prevented the crash.
Though investigators continued to pursue multiple angles before concluding what caused an engine and seven passenger cars to bolt the track, there was tacit agreement that excessive speed was the primary culprit.
The antidote to that problem — mandated by Congress to be installed by the end of this year — is a system called “positive train control.”
“It would prevent the very type of accident that we’re dealing with here,” said Sumwalt, who has been coordinating his agency’s efforts.
Amtrak President Joseph Boardman, making his first public appearance here since Tuesday’s incident, was more emphatic. “Had it been installed, it would have prevented this accident,” Boardman said.
Read more: The Washington Post