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The engineer of an Amtrak train that derailed near Philadelphia Tuesday, killing eight people, has been "obsessed with trains" since a child and took his job seriously, a longtime friend said Friday.

"I’ve often said that Brandon is as passionate about trains as some church-goers are about God," said Brad Watts, who met engineer Brandon Bostian while the two were in college about a decade ago. Watts, 36, is a former NBC News producer, who happens to know Bostian, 32.

The train was going more than double the 50 mph speed limit as it approached the curve where it came off the tracks, according to investigators.

Bostian spoke with National Transportation Safety Board investigators Friday, and was described by an NTSB board member as "extremely cooperative." Bostian told investigators he doesn't remember anything after ringing the bell at the north Philadelphia station before the crash, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said.

Sumwalt said the NTSB is investigating a report from a crew member that the train may have been struck by an object before the deadly crash, but federal investigators are also probing why the train was going so fast when it went into the turn.

Bostian joined Amtrak in 2006 as a conductor and in 2010 became a locomotive engineer with the rail service, Sumwalt said. He has been working the Washington, D.C., route for several weeks, but demonstrated a "very good working knowledge" of the territory and speed restrictions, Sumwalt said.

Watts said that Bostian took his role as engineer seriously. The last time the two went out together, about two months ago, Bostian wouldn't drink because he had to work the next day, Watts said.

"He knows the responsibility that it takes for a person to get people to and from their destination safely," Watts said. "If you want anyone to be in charge of a train during an accident, Brandon would be it."

Watts said he hasn't seen or spoken with Bostian since the accident because the engineer gave his cellphone over to the authorities following the crash. But Watts spoke with Bostian's partner, who said Bostian was in pain but recovering from injuries suffered in the crash.

Watts said he wasn't told how Bostian was doing mentally, but "Brandon cares a lot about people, and I can imagine that it’s tearing him up inside."

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— Elisha Fieldstadt