Expert: Derailed train must have been at full throttle in curve

WASHINGTON – Amtrak Train 188 must have been at full throttle going into a curve just before it derailed on Tuesday night, killing five people, an analyst says.

Speaking with WTOP on Friday, Mark Rosenker, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board and a transportation and aviation safety analyst for CBS News, says that the train’s speed increased from 70 mph to over 100 in its last minute – more than 50 mph over the speed limit for that curve.

Asked whether that means engineer Brandon Bostian had opened the throttle all the way, Rosenker said, “Absolutely. This thing was full throttle. There was no brake applied at all going toward the curve, until he was in the curve. And at that point he applied the emergency brake, which was much too late. It went from 106 to 104 – hardly anything” before it derailed.

Rosenker adds that footage from the front-facing video camera on the dashboard shows the engine leaning over before derailing: “You could see the tilt of the engine – more than 10 degrees.”

Bostian refused to give a statement to the police on Wednesday, but has agreed to speak with the NTSB, Rosenker says: “The question is how much he will remember.” The engineer has so far said he has no memory of what happened before the crash, except for applying the brake.

That’s a good development, Rosenker says. Bostian may be afraid of criminal prosecution, but the NTSB, Rosenker says, “is not a criminal investigation. So it’s in [the engineer’s] best interest to give as much information as possible.”

Indeed, the information Bostian gives the NTSB can be protected: “You get some ability to have some protection from a criminal action,” Rosenker says. That said, “Others may well be interested in interviewing him with other intentions, possibly criminal.”

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