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Derailed Amtrak train accelerated as it entered curve, NTSB says

In this aerial photo, emergency personnel work at

In this aerial photo, emergency personnel work at the scene of a deadly train wreck, Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. Federal investigators arrived Wednesday to determine why an Amtrak train jumped the tracks in a wreck that killed at least eight people, and injured dozens. Credit: AP / Patrick Semansky

PHILADELPHIA -- In the minute before the Amtrak train carrying 243 people derailed Tuesday night, its speed accelerated to more than double the maximum recommended limit for that curve in the track, a National Transportation Safety Board member said Thursday.

Sixty-five seconds before the end of the data recording, recovered by NTSB investigators, the train's speed went above 70 mph, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said. At 43 seconds, it exceeded 80 mph; at 31 seconds, it reached 90 mph; and at 16 seconds, the train was recorded topping 100 mph, Sumwalt said.

The engineer applied emergency brakes just before entering the curve, he said.

"Mere seconds into the turn, we could see the train tilting to the right and then the recording went blank," Sumwalt said.

No posted signs exist there to warn engineers passing through the left-hand turn that the speed limit decreases from 80 mph to 50 mph before the S-curve, according to Sumwalt. Instead, engineers must memorize speed limits and use a timetable to remember the location of signals and speed restrictions.

"Engineers have to qualify over a particular route," Sumwalt said. "Part of their testing to become qualified is to know every speed restriction, every permanent speed restriction of that track."

The engineer, identified by a police source as Brandon Bostian of Forest Hills, Queens, has agreed to be interviewed by the NTSB, Sumwalt said Thursday. He gave a short interview to police.

Speaking to ABC News, attorney Robert Goggin confirmed Thursday that Bostian, 32, is his client.

"As a result of his concussion, he has absolutely no recollection whatsoever of the events," said Goggin of Philadelphia. "He remembers coming into the curve. He remembers attempting to reduce speed. Thereafter, he was knocked out and thrown around just like all the other passengers on that train."

Initial data from an onboard event data recorder showed the Manhattan-bound train coming from Washington, D.C., was traveling at 106 mph as it approached a curve in the tracks about 9:30 Tuesday night. The engineer applied "full emergency brakes" and three seconds later, the train slowed to 102 mph, but "it was already in the curve at that time," Sumwalt said Wednesday.

Queens native, Md. man ID'd

The devastating crash killed eight people -- all of whom have now been identified -- and injured more than 200.

Thursday, Queens native Laura Finamore, 47, a managing director at Cushman & Wakefield in Manhattan, was identified as one of those killed. Finamore, of Manhattan, who was born and reared in Douglaston, had a 20-year career in corporate real estate, according to her family.

"Laura's smile could light up a room and her infectious laughter will be remembered by many for years to come," her family's statement said. "She was always there when you needed her -- with a hug, encouraging words or a pat on the back."

A funeral will be scheduled at the Fairchild Sons Funeral Home in Manhasset.

Until Thursday morning, the family of Bob Gildersleeve, of Maryland, circulated his photo, hoping the missing dad-of-two would turn up among the injured. His body was found by a search dog in the wreckage about 8 a.m., nearly 36 hours after the train derailed, officials said.

There are 43 people still hospitalized as of Thursday. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said midday Thursday authorities believe all 243 people aboard the train had been accounted for.

Gildersleeve was a vice president at Ecolab of St. Paul, Minnesota. Ecolab chairman and chief executive Doug Baker released a statement after being notified of Gildersleeve's death:

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague," Baker said. "Bob was with Ecolab for 22 years, most recently as vice president of corporate accounts for our institutional business in North America. Bob was an exceptional leader and was instrumental to our success."

Crash's other victims

The others killed are: Justin Zemser, 20, a Naval Academy midshipman headed home to visit his parents in Rockaway Beach, his family said; Jim Gaines, 48, a video software architect for The Associated Press from Plainsboro, New Jersey; Abid Gilani, a senior vice president of Wells Fargo's commercial real estate division, the bank said; Rachel Jacobs, chief executive of ApprenNet, an education technology company in Philadelphia; Derrick Griffith, 42, of Brooklyn, an administrator at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, the school said; and Giuseppe Piras, 40, an Italian national, the Italian government confirmed in a statement.

The NTSB is continuing to create the derailment's timeline with interviews with passengers, as well as by scouring the forward-facing video camera that held "good quality" footage up to the point of derailment, Sumwalt said.

Track geometry records that were taken the day before the accident showed "no anomalies," Sumwalt said. On-site 3-D laser scanning of the first two cars, the business class and the quiet car, the most damaged, were completed yesterday. Testing of the train control systems in the immediate vicinity of the derailment will be done Friday.

The NTSB has released the site back to Amtrak, which hopes to have partial service restored on the Northeast Corridor by Monday and full service by Tuesday.

When the tracks are repaired, Sumwalt said, a sight-distance test will be performed to "see how far out that curve would come into vision."

The train was not equipped with positive train control, which is designed to prevent human error, and is mandated to be installed by the end of this year.

Amtrak president and chief executive Joseph H. Boardman pledged Thursday to install the technology on the Northeast Corridor by year's end. Some parts of some Amtrak routes have it, but this one did not.

Sumwalt said he was confident that "an operational positive train control system would have prevented this accident."

NTSB investigators have not been able to determine if the speed increase was done manually by the engineer, Sumwalt said, but hope to find that out when he is interviewed, which should come in the next few days.

"What I believe is a very good way to interview people is to honestly, do not ask questions, is to basically give them a figurative blank sheet of paper and allow them to paint us a picture of what they recall," Sumwalt said. "And then we'll start asking questions."

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