Amtrak Derailment: Six Months Later, Many Unanswered Questions

PHILADELPHIA- (WTXF) It's been six months since the deadly crash of Amtrak train 188 in Port Richmond. Eight passengers died and more than 200 were hurt.

FOX 29's Dave Schratwieser talks to one of the passengers who survived with some catastrophic injuries. Also, he has exclusive new details on the investigation into one of the worst railroad accidents in Philadelphia history.

“I woke up about 30 or 40 feet from the train on a pile of rocks, my clothes were ripped off. I couldn't see out of my right eye. I couldn't move my legs. I laid there yelling for help,” Bob Hewett told FOX 29.

Bob Hewett has spent the last six months bravely fighting through the catastrophic injuries he suffered when he was thrown from Amtrak train 188 after it careened off the tracks last May.

Six months after the derailment, the 57-year-old Hewett is still recovering from 27 rib fractures, a lacerated kidney and a collapsed lung. He spent six weeks in a medically induced coma at Hahnemann Hospital, 10 weeks on dialysis and months in a rehab center. Hewett is wondering why no action has been taken against Amtrak engineer Brandon Bostian.

“He should be held accountable for his actions,” Hewitt said. “This is all his doing.”

When Amtrak Train 188 barreled into that sweeping curve at Frankford Junction back on May 12th, there was only one person controlling the speeding train: 32-year-old Amtrak engineer Brandon Bostian.

Investigators say Bostian wasn't texting, emailing or talking on his cell phone. Fox29 has now learned he wasn't drunk or on drugs either based on recently returned toxicology test. He was simply driving the train twice the speed limit.
Seconds before the fatal crash of Amtrak 188, the NTSB has said Bostian was frantically trying to slow the train down. He was quickly approaching that big left hand curve where the speed limit was 50 miles per hour.

Why Bostian was traveling so fast, and why didn't he start to slow down earlier and exactly what happened in the seconds leading up to the crash are still a mystery. The NTSB and Philadelphia Police are still investigating. Brandon Bostian isn't talking. The only thing he is saying is that he doesn't remember.
“How can you just not remember? How can you drive a train at 106 miles per hour and not know what you're doing?”

Attorneys Tom Kline and Robert Mongeluzzi represent many of the 8 passengers who were killed and the 200 passengers who were injured when Amtrak 188 careened off the tracks and came to a rest as a pile of mangled metal.

“Again, there are signals on the track, dispatchers. Somebody should have been on the radio to him telling him he's gotta slow down,” Hewett. “I've heard nothing as far why he was going that fast, what he was thinking about, what he was doing. Nothing.”

And while Brandon Bostian has told NTSB investigators he doesn't remember what happened. He hasn't told criminal investigators a thing.
The first person Bostian saw and communicated with seconds after he crawled out of the train was a female passenger who is represented by Tom Kline. Kline says Bostian loaned his cell phone to the passenger to call her father.

“It speaks to the fact that he was alert. That he was competent. That he was making decisions,that he was fully in control,” Kline said.
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“He was able to find and locate his phone  which had been bagged, he was able to exit the locomotive, he called 9-1-1 himself. He was able to give his phone to another passenger,” said Mongeluzzi.

Sources tell Fox 29 Bostian called 911 from his phone after he struggled his way out of the locomotive. He told investigators he was dazed. He had a gash on his head that later required 15 staples. Nonetheless, he calmly reported the crash and asked for help, but never identified himself as the train's engineer.

“Everything that he did and was seen doing after this accident is not reflective of somebody who suffered a brain injury and has amnesia,” said said Mongeluzzi.

We wanted to ask Bostian about all this so we traveled to New York last month. To Forest Hills, 71st rd. Just off Queens Boulevard. We spent an entire day there with no sign of Bostian, who is on unpaid leave from Amtrak.


No one answered the buzzer at Bostian's apartment. But neighbors told us he still lives there. Our trip to New York ended still without answers from Brandon Bostian.

“At a bare minimum we have conduct here that was recklessly indifferent to the safety of the passengers,” Kline explained.

The NTSB has already told criminal investigators there were no problems with the tracks, the locomotive or its brakes. In essence,  no mechanical failures that would have caused the fatal derailment.

“He was going 106 miles an hour. That is reckless and criminal period.”

All this leads us back to the families of the 8 people who died that night as well as the passengers like Bob Hewett who were seriously injured. 70 are already suing Amtrak and Bostian looking for answers. The question is when will they get them.

“He definitely acted recklessly. I'm fortunate enough to be alive, there are eight people that weren't, but i'm going to be living with physical limitations for the rest of my life and have health issues for the rest of my life,” Hewett told FOX 29.

Hewett also says Amtrak should have had positive train control to slow the train down before the crash. The NTSB preliminary report is expected to be out as early as next week. A final report should follow months later. In the meantime, Bostian’s lawyer has not returned our phone calls or an email request for an interview. DA Seth Williams declined to comment citing the ongoing investigation.
 

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