PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The engineer at the controls of the speeding Amtrak train that lurched off the tracks in Philadelphia, killing at least seven people, has no recollection of the crash and wasn’t on his cellphone or using drugs or alcohol, his attorney said.
Lawyer Robert Goggin told ABC News that Brandon Bostian, 32, of New York City, suffered a concussion in Tuesday night’s wreck and had 14 staples in his head, along with stitches in one leg.
Federal investigators have determined that the train was barreling through the city at 106 mph before it ran off the rails along a big curve where the speed limit drops to 50 mph. But they don’t know why it was going so fast.
“He remembers coming into curve. He remembers attempting to reduce speed and thereafter he was knocked out,” Goggin said. But he said Bostian does not recall anything out of the ordinary and does not remember using the emergency brake, which investigators say was applied moments before the crash.
The lawyer said the next thing the engineer remembered was coming to, looking for his bag, retrieving his cellphone and calling 911 for help. He said the engineer’s cellphone was off and stored in his bag before the accident, as required.
“As a result of his concussion, he has absolutely no recollection whatsoever of the events,” Goggin said. He said he believes the engineer’s memory will probably return once the head injury subsides.
Goggin said that his client “cooperated fully” with police, immediately consented to a blood test and surrendered his cellphone. He said he had not been drinking or doing drugs. Police had said on Wednesday that the engineer had refused to give a statement to law enforcement.
Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board said on Wednesday that accident investigators want to talk to the engineer but will give him a day or two to recover from the shock of the accident.
Goggin said his client was distraught when he learned of the devastation.
The engineer hit the emergency brakes moments before the crash but slowed the train to only 102 mph by the time the locomotive’s black box stopped recording data, according to Sumwalt. The speed limit just before the bend is 80 mph, he said.
Mayor Michael Nutter said the engineer was clearly “reckless and irresponsible.”
“Part of the focus has to be, what was the engineer doing?” Nutter said. “Why are you traveling at that rate of speed?”
Within hours of the wreck, Bostian changed his Facebook profile picture to a black rectangle. Friends who seemingly knew about his role in the crash before his name publicly surfaced rallied to his side.
“Hold your head up,” wrote a Facebook friend whose profile identifies him as an Amtrak engineer living in California. “Yes, it happened to you but it could have been any one of us and you are not alone.”
Bostian was an Amtrak conductor for four years before becoming an engineer in December 2010, according to his LinkedIn profile. The Tennessee native graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management in 2006, the university said.
No one answered the door at an address listed for Bostian in Queens.
More than 200 people aboard the Washington-to-New York train were injured in the wreck, which happened in a decayed industrial neighborhood not far from the Delaware River just before 9:30 p.m.
Sixteen people remained at Temple University Hospital, including eight in critical condition, but all were expected to recover, said Dr. Herbert Cushing, chief medical officer. The patients are between 19 and 80 years old and have severe rib injuries, he added.
The dead included an Associated Press employee, a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, a Wells Fargo executive, a college administrator and the CEO of an educational startup.
It was the nation’s deadliest train accident in nearly six years.
With the investigation underway, all Amtrak service has been suspended between Philadelphia and New York, forcing many thousands of commuters and other travelers to find some other means of transportation.
The tragedy has led to new demands for the installation of technology known as positive train control, which uses GPS, wireless radio and computers to prevent trains from going over the speed limit.
Amtrak has equipped most of its heavily used Northeast Corridor with positive train control, but not the section where the accident happened.
“Based on what we know right now, we feel that had such a system been installed in this section of track, this accident would not have occurred,” Sumwalt said.
The notoriously tight curve is not far from the site of one of the deadliest train wrecks in U.S. history: the 1943 derailment of the Congressional Limited, bound from Washington to New York. Seventy-nine people were killed.
In 2013, four people were killed in a derailment in the Bronx when a New York City commuter train took a 30 mph curve at 82 mph. NTSB investigators said the sleep-deprived engineer in that crash had nodded off at the controls because of undiagnosed sleep apnea combined with a drastic shift in his work schedule.
Amtrak carries 11.6 million passengers a year along the Northeast Corridor, which runs between Washington and Boston.