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Questions Surround Engineer In Derailment In Philly That Killed At Least 7

PHILADELPHIA (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Big questions were swirling around Wednesday night about the engineer behind the controls of an Amtrak train that wrecked in Philadelphia a night earlier – and what he was doing moments before the crash.

As CBS2's Jessica Schneider reported, National Transportation Safety Board officials said engineer Brandon Bostian, 32, of Queens applied the emergency brakes seconds before the derailment, but it was too late.

The crash killed at least seven people and injured 200 others.

Late Wednesday, leaders in Philadelphia were slamming the train operator, while Bostian refused to talk to police.

"Clearly it was reckless in terms of the driving by the engineer," Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said. "There's no way in the world that he should have been going that fast into the curve."

Bostian himself has not said what is happening either. He has lawyered up, and has refused to talk with investigators.

Brandon Bostian
Brandon Bostian of Queens was the engineer on the train that derailed in Philadelphia on Tuesday, May 12, leaving at least seven people dead. (Credit: CBS2)

His Facebook account late Wednesday showed that he changed his profile picture to an all-black screen around 2:30 p.m., five hours after the deadly derailment.

Comments below said things like: "As soon as I saw the headline, I wondered if you were on board," and: "Woke up thinking of you, buddy. Glad to hear you're ok."

Bostian lives in Forest Hills, Queens, and his LinkedIn account said he has been an engineer with Amtrak since 2010.

"Nice quiet person, that's it. That's the only thing I can say. Nice guy," said Jose Quinones, the superintendent of Bostian's building. "He spoke to me sometimes: 'Hi, Jose, how are you? How you doing? How's your family? That's it."

Neighbor Moresh Koya said he was acquainted with Bostian.

"I also saw him in the hallways and things; very personable guy; very nice, responsible," Koya said. "I never had a negative thought about him."

Quinones said Bostian never talked about his job.

Train Was Traveling Over 100 MPH, NTSB Says

Preliminary data show that the train was traveling more than 100 miles per hour, federal investigators have confirmed.

As CBS2's Christine Sloan reported, investigators have been trying to piece together the facts about the accident, which left seven people dead and left train cars torn open and on their sides.

Northeast Regional Train 188 left Washington, D.C. and was headed to New York when it derailed shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday. It was supposed to arrive at Penn Station at 10:34 p.m. Amtrak said the train was carrying 238 passengers and five crew members.

National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said the train had left the 30th Street station in Philadelphia at 9:10 p.m. Eleven minutes later, the entire train – composed of one locomotive and seven passenger cars – derailed, Sumwalt said.

Watch: NTSB Briefing On Amtrak Derailment

Just moments before the derailment, the engineer had applied the emergency brakes on the train, Sumwalt said.

The speed limit through the curve is 50 mph, Sumwalt said. Right before the curve, the speed limit is 80 mph, he said.

When the engineer-induced braking application was applied, the train was traveling at about 106 mph, Sumwalt said. Three seconds after the data to the records terminated, the train speed was 102 mph, Sumwalt said.

NTSB: Amtrak Train Exceeded 100 MPH Before Derailment In Philly

Sumwalt said the train had forward-facing video cameras and an event data recorder, which have been sent to the NTSB laboratory in Washington, D.C. for analysis. The initial download from the event data recorder captured the preliminary information about the train speeds, Sumwalt said.

Sumwalt said a preliminary look at information on the data recorder suggests that the accident may have been preventable.

"Amtrak, throughout a good bit of the northeastern corridor, has a system called advanced civil speed enforcement. That type of system is designed to enforce the civil speed," he said. "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."

The physical tracks have been released back to Amtrak, which will begin rebuilding soon, Sumwalt said. Two cars have also been moved to a secure location for documentation and examination, he said.

Amtrak inspected the stretch of track earlier on Tuesday, just hours before the accident, and found no defects, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

Sumwalt said he expects the NTSB to be at the crash site for about a week.

PHOTOS: Amtrak Train Derailment

Late Wednesday afternoon, piles of wreckage were scattered all along the rail line in the northeast Philadelphia accident scene, just minutes north of the 30th Street station, CBS2's Jessica Schneider reported.

One of the cars was positioned practically perpendicular to the tracks.

Five people were confirmed dead in the wreck late Tuesday night, and a sixth was confirmed dead earlier Wednesday.

A seventh body was pulled from the wreckage Wednesday as crews combed through the mangled train, officials said.

"We will not cease our efforts until we are absolutely sure that we've gone through every vehicle," Mayor Nutter said.

The injuries to survivors include burns and broken bones.

NTSB Investigates Amtrak Train Derailment In Philadelphia As Death Toll Rises To 6

President Barack Obama released a statement Wednesday offering his thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families. The president said he was "deeply saddened" and "shocked" after hearing about the derailment.

"Along the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak is a way of life for many. From Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia to New York City and Boston, this is a tragedy that touches us all," Obama said. "As we work to determine exactly what happened, I commend the fire, police and medical personnel working tirelessly and professionally to save lives. Philadelphia is known as the city of brotherly love – a city of neighborhoods and neighbors – and that spirit of loving-kindness was reaffirmed last night, as hundreds of first responders and passengers lent a hand to their fellow human beings in need."

As of late Wednesday afternoon, hospitals had treated more than 200 people.

Survivors Recall The Horror

Survivors who were on the train provided insight into what happened.

"You could tell that the train was off the track, and it felt to me - I was in the second car -- that it was almost flying; that we were in the air," said Jeff Kutler of Brooklyn.

Passengers inside the derailed Amtrak train were tossed around and hurled out of their seats.

"And then it tipped over, and was maybe it was kind of silent for a split second, and it hit hard with a thud," Kutler said.

Cellphone video captured first responders trying to rescue trapped passengers. Some survivors had to scramble through the windows of toppled cars to escape. One of the seven cars was completely mangled.

"What it looked like to me was yes, we were 90 degrees turned," Kutler said. "When I righted myself, the window was below my feet. I think I was trying to think, how am I going to get out of this place?"

Kutler did get out, climbing over mangled metal. He was among the lucky ones.

Beth Davidz of Brooklyn was also aboard the train at the time.

"Suddenly, the car felt like it was taking a wide turn, and then suddenly, I mean you knew that it wasn't just a turn. You could actually feel the car tipping over, and then it was kind of just a blackness of like flipping in the dark; not sure where it was going to end up; being hit by seats and people and things," Davidz said.

Davidz was trying to get home to Brooklyn when the wreck happened. She said the car in which she was riding flipped on its side and slid.

She climbed through the devastation in the dead of night and darkness.

"So first, we were kind of just looking around for help; I mean, some people were looking for exits. Some people were asking for help. Some people actually had phones that could light up, because it was very dark inside," she said. "So somebody actually popped open the window at the top, and we were actually able to climb out from the seats."

Others reported similar horrors.

"I saw so many head injuries, bloody faces, people were really injured," passenger Joan Helfman told our CBS station in Philadelphia, KYW-TV, CBS3 Eyewitness News.

"I could see the blood on people's faces, they can't move," her son Max said. "A lot of people were just in shock, they couldn't believe what was happening."

NTSB Investigates Amtrak Train Derailment In Philadelphia

Philadelphia Mayor 'Heartbroken'

Nutter said some people remained unaccounted for, raising fears the death toll could rise, though he cautioned that some passengers listed on the Amtrak manifest might not have boarded the train, while others might not have checked in with authorities.

"We are heartbroken by what has happened here,'' he said.

Anyone who might have a family member or loved one on the train may call 800-523-9101 for information on passengers or victims.

All seven train cars, including the engine, were in "various stages of disarray" and there were cars that were "completely overturned, on their side, ripped apart," Nutter said.

"It is an absolute disastrous mess,'' Nutter said. "I've never seen anything like this in my life.''

The area where the derailment occurred is known as Frankford Junction and has a big curve. It's not far from where one of the nation's deadliest train accidents occurred: the 1943 derailment of The Congressional Limited, from Washington to New York, which killed 79 people.


Deadly Train Derailment In Philadelphia

Many residents heard the train veer violently off the tracks.

One man said he thought Philadelphia was under attack when he heard all the sirens outside his door.

"Normally you don't see nothing like that here in Philly," resident Lawrence Bond told Grymes.

One woman said she was in her living room at the time, watching television, when she heard something go terribly wrong on the nearby train tracks.

"It was like a big explosion," resident Audalina Astacio said. "I feel so sad and sorry for those people."

More than 300 firefighters, police and other emergency personnel responded to the "mass casualty" scene, CBS2's Andrea Grymes reported.

The area where the derailment occurred is known as Frankford Junction and has a big curve. It's not far from where one of the nation's deadliest train accidents occurred: the 1943 derailment of The Congressional Limited, from Washington to New York, which killed 79 people.

As the investigation got under way Wednesday morning, authorities on the scene seemed to be girding for a long haul. One sign: several portable toilets were delivered for investigators and recovery workers. Utility poles near the wreck could be seen leaning into the tracks.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who was in touch with the mayor and other state and local officials about the derailment, thanked the first responders for "their brave and quick action.''

"My thoughts and prayers are with all of those impacted by tonight's train derailment,'' he said in a statement. "For those who lost their lives, those who were injured, and the families of all involved, this situation is devastating.''

He has ordered state flags to be flown at half-staff.

Tri-State Area Elected Officials: Wreck Is 'Terrible Tragedy'

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is in Washington, called the crash a "terrible tragedy."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is sending personnel with the National Guard and officials from the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to the crash site to assist with the recovery effort.

"New Yorkers have always come together to help others in times of crisis, and that is exactly what we are doing today," Cuomo said in a statement released Wednesday. "Last night's Amtrak accident was a terrible tragedy, and this morning I called Governor Wolf to express my support and let him know that New York stands ready to help in any way possible...My thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been injured as a result of the crash, as well as the loved ones of those who were lost."

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said the derailment is "really disconcerting'' and hopes authorities will get to the bottom of what caused it.

Christie told reporters in New Hampshire on Wednesday that he's been riding the route between New York and Washington for more than a decade. He said he's "fascinated'' to know what caused the derailment and hopes authorities will do what's needed to try to prevent future incidents.

He said he instructed the state's emergency management personnel to reach out to authorities in Philadelphia to offer their assistance, but they said they didn't need it.

Christie also said his thoughts go out to the families of those who have been lost and injured.

Meanwhile, Amtrak said rail service on the busy Northeast Corridor between New York and Philadelphia had been stopped. The mayor, citing the mangled train tracks and downed wires, said, "There's no circumstance under which there would be any Amtrak service this week through Philadelphia.''

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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