Excessive Speed to Blame in Philadelphia Amtrak Derailment

Cordisco & Saile LLC extends its deepest sympathies to the victims and families of victims injured or killed in the May 12th derailment of Amtrak Train 188 in Philadelphia. At the time of publication, eight passengers are confirmed dead and at least 200 have been treated at local hospitals. Amtrak shut down all transit through Philadelphia and suspended travel in some nearby areas pending a thorough inspection of the tracks.

As crews work to clear the wreckage, recover passengers, and secure evidence, officials are working to determine the cause and liability for the crash. Early reports from Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), indicate that the train was traveling approximately 106 mph – well above the 50 mph speed limit – before the emergency brake was applied. Officials are now looking at speed as a major factor in the derailment, as well as potentially human error and failure to implement available safety systems.

Determining Negligence in the Philadelphia Amtrak Derailment

Current investigations are focused on the moments prior to the deadly crash and the actions of the train’s engineer, Brandon Bostian. When he was questioned about the cause of the crash, Bostian claimed he could not remember the incident. During a nationally broadcast interview on ‘Nightline’, Bostian’s lawyer, Robert Goggin, said “He has absolutely no recollection of the incident or anything unusual. The next thing he recalls is being thrown around, coming to, finding his cell phone and dialing 911.”

So far, Bostian has not made any public statements after being treated for head and leg injuries. Bostian’s lawyer claims that his client was not using his cell phone and was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol prior to the crash. Philadelphia police obtained a blood sample to test for intoxication at the time of the crash.

Officials at the NTSB are currently looking into two potential main causes of the derailment: human error and mechanical failure. Train 188, like most mass transit vehicles, was equipped with on-board data recorders that may reveal important information about the train’s speed and status prior to and during the crash. Investigators obtained these boxes and took them to an Amtrak facility for analysis. They’ll next head to the NTSB.

Site where Amtrak Train 188 derailed on May 12, 2015The NTSB is also looking at the lack of safety systems installed on the section of railroad tracks where the derailment took place. Officials indicated that there is a safety system in use on some tracks that could have changed the outcome. Frankford Junction, the area where the derailment occurred, was not equipped with a positive train control safety system, a system that can override human error and slowed the speed of the train. Robert Sumwalt, a member of the NTSB, believes the system could have prevented the train’s derailment. “Based on what we know, had such a system been installed in this section of track, this accident would not have occurred,” he said.


Handling the Aftermath of a Serious Train Accident

Eyewitness reports from bystanders, first responders, and surviving passengers revealed the firsthand details of the chaotic scene. The first two cars suffered the brunt of the damage and many passengers had to be rescued from the wreckage with the Jaws of Life. Crews are still removing the damaged train cars and debris as they clear the tracks for inspection.

Amtrak responded to the crash by rerouting many of its regular routes to avoid the area, where the quality of the tracks has come into question. Matthew L. Wald, a transportation analyst, called the curve “an extremely heavily used stretch of track,” according to CNN, but Amtrak’s CEO, Joe Boardman, said that overall the railway is in good condition. Boardman pledged that the positive train control safety system would be installed on that area by the year’s end.

This is the ninth derailment of an Amtrak train reported this year and there have been several more reported on other national lines. Train derailments have been on the rise with a reported 67 accidents in 2014, a 9-accident increase from 2013. The Frankford Junction is also near the site of one of the deadliest derailments in U.S. history. In 1943, The Congressional Limited train derailed, killing 79 people traveling from Washington to New York.

Victims’ families and concerned travelers can call Amtrak’s hotline for the latest information on the crash recovery and train schedules at 800-523-9101. Families seeking assistance in recovering loved ones’ personal effects or seeking other help can visit the family assistance center at the Marriott Hotel on 12th and Market in Philadelphia.

Lawsuits Expected in Amtrak Derailment Case

It’s not uncommon to see lawsuits filed following a mass transit accident such as the derailment of Amtrak Train 188. An off-duty Amtrak employee who was riding on the train when it derailed is the first to file a lawsuit against Amtrak seeking a settlement for medical damages and lost wages. He sustained serious injuries and is still hospitalized. He and other injured victims or families of the deceased are afforded this right under tort laws. Make sure you know your rights if you were on the train or somebody you love was on it. If you have questions, call 215-642-2335.