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Engineer in Amtrak Derailment Didn't Tell Dispatchers Train Had Been Struck: NTSB

An assistant conductor aboard the doomed train has told investigators that she thought she heard the engineer say an object struck the locomotive.

The engineer at the center of the deadly derailment in Philadelphia last week made no mention to dispatchers that the Amtrak train was possibly struck by a foreign object, a lead investigator said Sunday.

"We interviewed the dispatchers and we listened to the dispatch tape, and we heard no communications at all from the Amtrak engineer to the dispatch center to say that something had struck his train,” National Transportation Safety Board investigator Robert Sumwalt said on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Sumwalt told CNN the same thing. But Sumwalt said the NTSB and FBI "see a mark on the windshield that we want to look at."

Sumwalt said Friday that an assistant conductor aboard the doomed train told NTSB investigators that she thought she heard the engineer say that an object struck the locomotive before it crashed Tuesday.

She also told investigators that she thought she heard a SEPTA engineer in the area report that his train had been hit by an object, and two passengers aboard another Amtrak train traveling in the same area around the same time said their train was struck by something.

The Amtrak train that derailed was going over 100 miles per hour — more than double the 50 mph speed limit — when it approached a curve near where it ultimately jumped the tracks.

Brandon Bostian, the engineer, has told investigators he doesn't remember what happened leading up to the crash.

Addressing that concern, Sumwalt also told ABC and CNN that the NTSB has called for inward facing cameras on trains. "Had we had cameras, that would help with this investigation significantly,” he said.

Sumwalt also reiterated the NTSB's call for positive train control (PTC), which would "automatically stop or slow a train before certain types of accidents occur," according to the Association of American Railroads. The system hadn't been in use on the section of the tracks where Tuesday's derailment occurred.

"We have to have positive train control implemented soon to keep things like this from happening in the future," Sumwalt told Stephanopoulos. Sumwalt said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the NTSB is encouraged that Amtrak has committed to implementing PTC on their tracks by the end of the year, but "it's unfortunate that it was not installed in this area a few nights ago."


— Elisha Fieldstadt