Amtrak derailment investigation turns to engineer's phone

Wednesday, May 20, 2015
amtrak derailment philadelphia
Emergency personnel work the scene of a deadly train wreck, Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Philadelphia. An Amtrak train headed to New York City derailed and crashed in Philadelphia.
Joseph Kaczmarek-AP

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Investigators are combing through phone records, locomotive data, radio transmissions and surveillance video to determine if the engineer in last week's deadly Amtrak derailment was using his cellphone while at the controls, federal authorities said Wednesday.

Brandon Bostian's phone records show calls were made, text messages were sent and data was used the day of the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board said, but it remains unclear if the phone was used while the train was in motion.

Investigators won't be able make that determination until after a time-consuming analysis comparing time stamps from Bostian's subpoenaed phone records with those from an on-board data recorder, video and other sources, the NTSB said.

The May 12 derailment killed 8 people and injured more than 200. Investigators are looking into why the train from Washington to New York City was going double the 50 mph limit around a sharp curve.

Bostian's lawyer, Robert Goggin, has said he kept his cellphone in a bag and used it only to call 911 afterward. Bostian, who was injured, told investigators he had no recollection of the crash, the NTSB said.

"The next thing he recalls is being thrown around, coming to, finding his bag, getting his cellphone and dialing 911," Goggin told ABC News the day after the crash.

Goggin has not returned repeated messages from The Associated Press.

The NTSB also said Wednesday that the engineer of a different commuter train struck by a projectile minutes before the derailment told investigators he did not notice anything unusual when the Amtrak train passed by on a parallel track.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority engineer told investigators he did not recall Bostian saying his locomotive had also been struck by an object, casting doubt on an Amtrak assistant conductor's recollection of a conversation between the engineers.

Bostian, 32, had been an engineer on the Northeast Corridor for about three years. He was based in New York. He was specifically assigned to the Washington to New York route for several weeks before the derailment, the NTSB said.

He worked a five-day-a-week schedule - making a daily roundtrip from New York to Washington - and had a "very good working knowledge" of the territory and various speed restrictions, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said.

Bostian spoke to investigators May 15, Sumwalt said, and did not report feeling fatigued or ill while operating the train.