The last thing Amtrak engineer Brandon Bostian remembers before last May's fatal crash in Philadelphia is pushing the throttle forward to pick up speed and then braking when he felt the train going too fast into a sharp curve, according to a transcript of his interview with federal accident investigators.
When he realized the train was about to derail, Bostian said he was holding tightly to the controls and thinking, "Well, this is it, I'm going over."
The transcript was among more than 2,200 pages of documents released Monday by the National Transportation Safety Board. The documents don't come to any conclusions on the cause of the crash but offer a glimpse into what investigators have learned thus far.
Among the most illuminating are two transcripts of interviews Bostian had with investigators, one immediately after the May 12 crash that killed eight people and injured nearly 200 others, and the second in November.
In the later interview, Bostian provided investigators with a vivid account of what he believes happened in the seconds before Train 188 left the tracks — a sharp contrast from his first interview, where he said he remembered little.
The train's data recorder shows that at about 55 seconds — a mile and a half — before the Frankford Junction curve, one of the sharpest in Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, Bostian applied full throttle and held it there for about 30 seconds. The train reached a speed of about 95 mph.
He then slightly lowered the throttle for 2 seconds before returning to full throttle and holding it there for another 20 seconds. Three seconds before the derailment, at a speed of 106 mph, Bostian applied the emergency brake.
That reduced the speed to 102 mph, but by then it was too late. Four of the train's seven cars and its locomotive derailed in a tangled heap.
The speed limit for the curve is 50 mph. The limit for the stretch of track prior to the curve is 80 mph.
It's difficult at night to see where the curve starts but there are visual cues that it's coming up, Bostian told investigators, including track signals and a nearby elevated subway bridge where he said he would normally start braking to bring the train down to 50 mph. He said he did not look for speed restriction signs because they are sometimes missing or wrong.
NTSB has wrapped up its investigative phase into the accident. Next, investigators will analyze the evidence, prepare a report on the probable cause of the derailment and make safety recommendations. A draft report is expected to be delivered to board members in a meeting not yet scheduled, but that will likely occur this spring before the anniversary of the crash. (AP)