Less than three weeks after Amtrak passenger train No. 188 derailed in a tangled mass of twisted metal near Philadelphia — claiming the lives of eight passengers and sending more than two hundred others to the hospital — government investigators have issued a preliminary report on the deadly crash. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a brief, six-paragraph summary of what’s been learned so far.
The big early finding of the NTSB probe is that there appears to have been no mechanical or equipment malfunctions or failures that contributed to the disaster. “Investigators have examined the train braking systems, signals, and track geometry. Thus far, no anomalies have been noted,” the report states.
The preliminary report notes that the crash on May 12th occurred on a pleasant, 82-degree day with 20 mph westerly winds, clear skies, and good visibility. The NTSB document also acknowledges what has previously been reported — the train was traveling at 106 mph in a zone with a speed limit of about half that. In addition, “The data indicated that the engineer activated the emergency brakes seconds before the derailment.”
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Two other points of intense interest are covered in the NTSB report posted online. One concerns the Amtrak engineer’s cell phone records, which the federal investigators say they have obtained and are studying. “Although the records appear to indicate that calls were made, text messages sent, and data used on the day of the accident, investigators have not yet made a determination if there was any phone activity during the time the train was being operated.”
The other key focus of the investigation is whether vandalism may have somehow contributed to the crash, though shooting at the train or the throwing of objects wouldn’t necessarily explain the extremely high rate of speed as it approached the curve where the derailment occurred. The report states:
Damage to locomotive windshields and to at least one passenger car has been reported. The Amtrak 188 locomotive windshield has impact damage, however, it has not been determined if the damage was from a thrown object or as a result of the derailment. The NTSB was assisted by the FBI in evaluating the damage to the locomotive windshield which found no evidence of damage that could have been caused by a firearm.
One thing the NTSB report doesn’t mention or reference is the possibility that terrorism was involved in the deadly crash. In an opinion piece for Western Journalism posted the day after the derailment, writer Jerry McGlothin noted the FBI was very quick to rule out any kind of relevant terrorist activity, despite the fact that just eight days earlier purported Muslim jihadists declared they had 71 trained soldiers positioned in 15 U.S. cities and ready to strike:
Ordinarily in plane crashes, it takes the NTSB or the FBI months, if not years, to determine the cause. Yet in the case of the Amtrak derailment, within 12 hours the FBI ruled out any tie to terrorism — never mind the fact that the FBI had not long ago released info on a likely upcoming terrorist attack on the U.S. rails. Surveillance video footage shows bright flashing light coming from the Amtrak train at 9:23 pm and 46 seconds. Yet the FBI sees no ties to terrorism?
In releasing its preliminary report on the Philadelphia Amtrak disaster, the NTSB gave no indication when an update or a final report might be issued.