NTSB: Amtrak engineer was distracted by radio transmissions in deadly crash

PHILADELPHIA -- CBS News has learned an Amtrak engineer was distracted by radio transmissions just before his speeding train jumped the tracks near Philadelphia one year ago. Eight were killed and more than 200 were hurt in the crash.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators now believe the deadly Amtrak crash was caused by engineer Brandon Bostian’s “loss of situational awareness.”

Bostian told investigators that just minutes before the derailment, he heard radio traffic between a dispatcher and the engineer of a Philadelphia commuter train that had been hit by a rock.

“The dispatcher asked him a couple of times if he needed medical attention,” Bostian said, “They went back and forth a few times...”

As train 188 approached the commuter train, Bostian said, “l blew my train’s whistle quite a bit...I was concerned, with all the confusion on the radio, that they may have personnel on ground...”

Bostian also told investigators the incident got him thinking about a coworker in California who was injured in a train collision and, “had glass impact his eye from hitting a tractor-trailer.”

Bostian then accelerated the Amtrak train going into a curve, hitting 106 miles an hour. He slammed on the brakes, but only seconds before the train left the tracks.

“All of those things put together created an environment I believe he maybe lost situational awareness,” said former NTSB Chair Mark Rosenker. “It would be kind of like you driving down the beltway, and you are in deep thought or listening to something, and you are supposed to get off on an exit and you missed it. You really are don’t realize where you are at that moment.”

Bostian also told investigators he did worry about his own safety in the area where the commuter train was hit. On Tuesday, the NTSB is expected to renew its call for positive train control -- technology that can automatically slow a speeding train.