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Rail News: Amtrak

NTSB: Amtrak engineer was not using his cell phone


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced this morning that the engineer involved in the fatal Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia last month was not using his cell phone while operating the train.

Since the May 12 accident occurred, the NTSB has been conducting a detailed examination of the engineer's cell phone calls, texts data and cell phone towner transmission activity records from the phone carrier, as well as records from Amtrak's onboard WiFi system.

To determine whether the phone was in "airplane mode" or was powered off, investigators in the NTSB laboratory in Washington, D.C., have been examining the phone's operating system, which contains more than 400,000 files of meta-data. Investigators are obtaining a phone identical to the engineer’s phone as an exemplar model and will be running tests to validate the data.

The engineer provided the NTSB with the passcode to the cell phone, which allowed investigators to access the data without having to go through the phone manufacturer.

Amtrak Train 188 derailed on a sharp curve just after leaving a station in Philadelphia on its way to New York City. Eight passengers were killed and 200 more were injured. The NTSB has determined that the train was traveling more than 100 mph just prior to the derailment; the posted speed limit in the area is 50 mph.

The engineer, who sustained a head injury in the incident, has said he can't remember what happened after the train left the station, according to news media reports citing the engineer's attorney.