The background:

Amtrak Northeast Regional Train #188 carrying 238 passengers was heading from Washington, D.C., to New York City when it derailed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night at around 9:30 p.m. EST. To date, at least eight people are dead and over 200 are injured.

What happened?

The investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is ongoing, however, it has been determined that the train derailed as it went around a curve at 106 mph – more than twice the curve’s speed limit and over 20 mph over the regular limit.

Who was driving?

Engineer Brandon Bostian, 32, claims he does not remember much after reaching the curve, other than attempting to apply the brakes and then calling 911. His lawyer says he is suffering memory loss from a concussion sustained in the accident. The
NTSB says Bostian did deploy the emergency brake, even though he has no recollection of doing so. The train was reportedly running 20 minutes behind schedule.

Bostian volunteered to give a blood sample and authorities reportedly took his phone, although he maintains he was not driving while distracted, other than using it to call 911 after the derailment. Bostian’s record with Amtrak is clean, with no notable documented accidents or mishaps.

How is the investigation going?

The investigation is currently ongoing, but the train’s ‘black box’ has been recovered.

The train in question has only been in use since 2014, so a mechanical failure is looking less and less likely, however, a transportation analyst said the area where the train derailed has had problems in the past. The stretch of track where the train derailed was not equipped with an automated speed control system called positive train control.

That said, Amtrak inspected the stretch of track on Tuesday, just hours before the accident, and found no defects, according to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

What is Amtrak?

The for-profit National Railroad Passenger Corporation, functioning as ‘Amtrak,’ began operations in May 1971 to provide intercity passenger train service. It is actually owned and operated by the federal government and is subsidized by taxpayers, most of whom don’t even live in an area where the majority of the trains operate (in the Northeast Corridor).   Amtrak operates in 46 states, connecting over 500 cities.

Tuesday’s accident marks the ninth Amtrak derailment this year alone, according to the FRA.

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