Washington, May 16: The engineer at the controls of the commuter train that crashed in Philadelphia this week, claiming eight lives, was interviewed and has been "extremely cooperative" with the investigation, US authorities have said.
National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt told reporters at a press briefing yesterday that the driver of the train told investigators that he felt completely well before the accident. "He said that he did not feel fatigued, nor did he report any illness," Sumwalt said, appearing to rule out a medical episode as the cause of the accident.
The train's 32-year-old driver noted nothing out of the ordinary during the trip, describing a very routine course of events leading up to the disaster. However, the man, who officials did not identify by name, "did apparently have some technical problems on the route down to Washington" which resulted in the train being delayed by about 30 minutes, Sumwalt told reporters.
He said the engineer is a longtime employee of Amtrak with years of experience at the controls of the train that travelled along the corridor - the busiest route for the US railway. The engineer, identified by US media as 32-year-old Brandon Bostian, started working with Amtrak in 2006 as a conductor, and became an engineer in 2010.
"Since 2012, he has worked out of New York City. And he's been on this particular job for several weeks," said Sumwalt. "He works five days a week. It's an out and back trip for him. New york, Washington, and back to New York. Five days a week," Sumwalt said.
He added that routine drug and alcohol testing were performed on the engineer by Amtrak, as is always the case following an accident.
"We're waiting on the results of those tests," the NTSB official said. The federal transportation agency is leading the investigation into the cause of the crash, one of the worst in years involving a US passenger train. Amtrak Train 188 was travelling from Washington to New York when it crashed as it entered a curve while moving at a little over 160 kilometres per hour - more than twice the 50 mph speed limit, according to investigators.
Video leading up the crash shows the train accelerating as it nears the curve, rocketing from 70 mph to over 100 mph in the minute or so before the footage cuts out. Eight of the train's 243 passenger and crew were killed and dozens injured in the crash that saw some train cars overturned others reduced to heaps of twisted metal.