The railroad engineer behind the controls of Amtrak 188 when it hurtled off the tracks in Philadelphia at a high speed last month has for years been an outspoken advocate of equipping trains with automatic speed-regulating devices.
According to the New York Times, Brandon Bostian, 32, has been a long-time safety-minded railroad employee, posting for years about the need for safety improvements. His rants about rail safety included one 2012 social media post blasting rail companies for their failure to install Positive Train Controls (PTCs) – devices designed to prevent precisely the type of crash Amtrak 188 was involved in.
“At any point over the previous EIGHTY years the railroad could have voluntarily implemented some form of this technology,” Bostian wrote in the post, the New York Times reported.
A website called Trainorders.com, where train enthusiasts and industry employees share information, contains several posts submitted by Brandon Bostian, who “routinely chided railroad companies for not doing more to prevent accidents,” the New York Times said, In one post, Mr. Bostian said he found the risk of human error in the rail industry “frightening.”
“I wish the railroads had been more proactive in adopting active signaling systems from the get-go,” Mr. Bostian wrote in March 2011.
The “reality is that they have had nearly a hundred years of opportunity to implement SOME sort of system to mitigate human error, but with a few notable exceptions have failed to do so.”
Sixty-five seconds of surveillance video show Mr. Bostian’s train traveling at 70 mph before it suddenly accelerates to 106 mph ahead of a dangerously sharp curve with a posted speed limit of 50 mph. The train then tilts 10 degrees to the left and hurtles off the tracks.
The crash killed eight people and injured more than 200, including 43 who remain hospitalized. Of those, eight people remain in critical but stable condition.
Mr. Bostian’s lawyer says his client has “absolutely no recollection whatsoever of the events” leading to the crash.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) lead investigator Robert Sumwalt said the deadly crash could have been avoided had the train been equipped with a PTC system because the device would have automatically slowed the train down at the critical bend.
According to the New York Times, “Congress has mandated that railroads install such a system along passenger lines and heavily traveled freight routes by December, but the system is complex and expensive to install and many railroad companies have lobbied to push back the deadline.”