February 01, 2016
The National Transportation Safety Board on Monday released thousands of pages of information generated during its investigation into the Amtrak 188 derailment on May 12 in Philadelphia.
Eight people were killed and 200 more were injured in the crash and investigators had already determined the train, that originated in Washington, D.C., and was headed to New York, was traveling twice the posted speed along the curved section of rails at Frankford Junction.
Among the documents released Monday by the NTSB were transcripts of interviews with Amtrak 188 engineer Brandon Bostian and other crew members.
The following are excerpts of the interviews with the crew members onboard Amtrak 188 and other rail workers in the vicinity of Frankford Junction that night. They describe the scene before, during and after the derailment. The the questions in these interviews were asked by a panel of investigators from the NTSB, federal government and Amtrak.
"We got to Philadelphia and we were almost back on time ... But somewhere between Philly and Trenton everything was fine until it wasn't. You know what I mean? ... We were moving along and then there was, like, 2 seconds of shake and then what felt like two really major impacts to me.
"And as soon as I got up, I'm looking around and there's immediately more blood than made sense for me to be able to see so fast. I just thought, how are we all bleeding so much already?"
"I felt like we slammed the car ahead of us, and I actually – I don't know what was really happening ... And I was already in the seventh car (when the crash occurred) probably somewhere in the middle of it, pulling the seat checks down off either side. And we hit and I went flying. And I hit the back of some chair. And as soon as I got up, I'm looking around and there's immediately more blood than made sense for me to be able to see so fast. I just thought, how are we all bleeding so much already? And I'm looking at the walls, and I'm looking at the floor and there' s just blood and there' s stuff everywhere. The seats are all either disconnected and off or rotated out of place.
"And now people are, like, yelling about being trapped because they' re pinned with these, they' re pinned with these seats. People are screaming that they think that the train' s on fire. And it' s not. It' s just, it' s like dust and stuff ...
"And I had this stupid thought that I needed to, like – because my hat got knocked off my head and I was, like, you got to find that hat because they' re going to want to see a guy that looks like he knows what he' s doing and looks like he's not ready to wet his pants and cry. So I found the hat. I put it on. All these rocks poured all over my face. And I was like, this was a bad idea. But – and at the time I didn't feel hurt. I had the wind knocked out of me from that – from the seat in my chest, but I was, like, oh, I' m like invincible."
"I got on the PA (after passengers boarded in Washington, D.C.). I made the opening announcement about, you know, train set, the car count, the station stops, the safety instruction card in the seat pockets, where everything was – the business class, the quiet car, café – and we went on about our way. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Everything was the same, as if it always was ...
"The next thing, you see something flash and the train is shaking so violently. It' s just shaking and shaking and it seemed like forever."
"Made all the regular station stops, no problems. We got to Philadelphia. We detrained. We board the Philadelphia passengers ...
"About maybe 4 or 5 – no, 10 – I' m not sure about the minutes, but shortly after we left Philadelphia, Brandon got on the radio and said to CTEC (Centralized Electrification and Traffic Control), "I don' t know if somebody is shooting at us or if they' re throwing rocks, but I see it.
"After that, the horn started to go. He was laying on the horn. The next thing, you see something flash and the train is shaking so violently. It' s just shaking and shaking and it seemed like forever. Finally, we kind of, I don' t know if we flipped or what, but we rolled and slid and the train was on its side.
"After – you could just see stuff blowing up. I could see the catenary pole getting ripped down. I could see the rail ripping up off the ground. Stuff was just everywhere, bags, people, computers. You name it, it was everywhere. Everybody in the café car was thrown around, upside down, on top of each other.
"When we finally came to a stop, I kind of, like, laid there for a minute because I didn't know what was going on or what just happened. Finally, I was able -- I had my radio attached to my shirt and I was able to call CTEC, because I was waiting to hear Emilio Fonseca make a transmission but I didn't hear him, and I didn't hear Brandon again. So I got on the radio and I gave the emergency transmission. I said, "Emergency, emergency, emergency. This is the head brake on 188. We just derailed."
"And then Philadelphia came. They boarded the train. I did my ticket lift out of Philadelphia. Then I went to go use the bathroom. And as I was washing my hands, I felt a shake, like a violent shake. So I went for the door to open it to see what was going on, and as I was opening the door, I flew back like – with like a violent force backwards and then I was just knocked unconscious.
"And then when I woke up, emergency personnel were already on the scene. It looked like a chaotic disaster. Cars flipped over, lines down."
"And then when I woke up, emergency personnel were already on the scene. It looked like a chaotic disaster. Cars flipped over, lines down. I sat up and I saw people by the lines and I started screaming at them, "Get away from the lines. Get away from the electrical lines. "
"Now, you know, for all I know, I mean, the power director probably shut everything down by then, but, you know, still like – you know, I just woke up in a daze. I see lines down, so I was screaming for them to get away. And then, I guess, a EMT heard me and he saw me and like I could see – I didn't know how I appeared outwardly, but like I could see that I wasn't in good shape just by the look in his eyes. And he's like, you have to come with me.
" ... I had a fracture on the C7 neck, also four fractures in my back, four fractures in my ribs, a dislocated right shoulder and a fractured humerus and scaphoid on my left arm ... I was in the hospital for 10 days ... I' m still feeling, you know, the effects, but day by day I' m doing a little better."
"I tied my engines up in the yard at Frankford Junction. We were finished working that evening, and I tied my engines down, tested the brake. And when I was walking across the yard back to the office, you know, I heard the train coming. I guess it was eastbound. And I – you know, my subconscious, I knew something didn't sound right with it because normally the wheels are like whistling and I heard like a clacking sound or something. I looked up at the Amtrak, the main line, and I saw the train briefly, but then my eyes got diverted from me.
"The catenary poles started sparking. And like, then there was a couple good explosions, and then one giant explosion."
"The catenary poles started sparking. And like, then there was a couple good explosions, and then one giant explosion.
"And I just – you know, at that time, you know, it kind of startled me so I really didn't hear the crash and the wreck. But I knew something was wrong, so I also went to the yard office and made some phone calls: South Jersey dispatcher to shut down the Delair Branch; CTEC 6, for them to, you know, investigate, maybe shut down what they could out there on the main line; and I called the train master at Camden yard office just to make sure that everybody knew that there was a problem out here.
"And I just – I grabbed my conductor and grabbed some flashlights and hustled down there and tried to help some people out as best I could. And, you know, saw the wreck down there and was helping people off of the wrecked cars and stuff. And that's about the long and the short of it.
"But you know, as far as the wreck went, I knew something sounded funny like – you know, I don't know if it was the speed of the train hitting that curve, because I lost sight of it because the Delair Branch is actually higher level than the main line next to it ...
"Just a lot of injured folks ... I helped a couple people off of one of the cars, and then I – it was a little too dangerous after the first one, but she had already been committed, you know, because she was climbing down. And I asked the other folks to stay up there until emergency personnel came, and which they did. And waited for some ladders and stuff to get there. And we helped – I helped one lady on the ground, stuffed a pocketbook under her head. She was laying in the dirt. And a couple folks, I -- you know, I opened the door to our office here and they were sitting in here.
"And, you know, I gave some water to some people. I brought a big bag of water down there and was handing some water out. And just trying to, you know, use a flashlight to – you know, so they could watch where they were walking and stuff."
"We left 30th Street (Station) at approximately 9:01. Nothing out of the ordinary. Came eastbound through Mantua. I started to increase speed, I was just -- well, in fact, as I was leaving Mantua. And I saw a white light. I don't know what it was. It looked like it could've been somebody carrying a white light. So I decided to blow the horn for them, to make sure they know I was coming. I'm positive it wasn't an employee or an Amtrak employee because they didn't have a whistle board or anything like that. So I just wanted to warn them that a train was coming.
"As I blew the horn, something hit the windshield and knocked glass into my face and onto the console, then onto my person."
"As I blew the horn, something hit the windshield and knocked glass into my face and onto the console, then onto my person. As I ducked down, trying to get away from it, I was clutching the door and trying to get out of the door; couldn't get the door open. And I heard a passenger knock on the door because they also heard the sound too.
"I called CTEC 6 and told them that something hit my windshield and shattered the windshield. I don't what it was. I told them that we would had put our train in emergency and we were stopped at milepost 86. They asked me again, you know, where we were, approximately where we were, if anybody was hurt. I told them that no one was hurt, and he asked me again, was – did I need assistance. So finally, I told him that, okay, you can send assistance, but I don't believe anybody was hurt because I was the only one in the cab obviously. I was, you know, brushing the glass off of me and everything like that.
"And the Amtrak train was coming east, and I could hear him on the radio saying – because he saw us stopped, I could hear him on the radio saying we have hot rail on 2. That would be train 188 passing us. That was approximately 15 minutes – we had been stopped – maybe 10 minutes after we had been stopped. So he passed us.
"When he passed us, I didn't see anything out of the ordinary out of 188. It seemed to pass us at normal speed. I don't think he was going any faster than he should've been. It just passed us. But the other train was just, was telling us that a train was coming. I can't even remember if he blew his horn or not, but -- usually that would be the case, but I can't remember if he blew his horn or not.
"So there was really nothing I could say that was out of the ordinary about 188 passing us. Usually that train does not pass us until later down the road, but since we had been – we're in emergency and we had stopped because I was making a report to CTEC 6, it passed us earlier than it usually does.
"It passed us. I tried to make another report to CTEC 6 because he was just trying to make sure we were okay and trying to make sure that he had someone coming to our assistance. That's when our power when out. And when our – after our power went out and came back on, he told me that he had gotten an emergency call so he couldn't talk to us anymore. Because I didn't yell emergency on the radio. I just knew something hit us, and I was kind of shocked that something hit us. So I didn't yell emergency on the radio. But Amtrak got the emergency call from the 188 train, so we didn't have any more contact with CTEC 6."