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Investigators focus on engineer in the deadly Amtrak accident

The deadly Amtrak May 12 derailment in Philadelphia no doubt sent shivers through many West Virginia residents who take that and other routes to reach points north of us. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are still working to determine the cause of the accident, which occurred as the train moved toward a sharp curve at over 100 mph in a 50 mph zone.

Interestingly, many questions being asked of and about the engineer at the controls are similar to those asked when commercial truck drivers are involved in an accident. These include questions about whether he was using his cellphone, if fatigue may have contributed to the crash, his familiarity with the route, his health, whether he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and why he was traveling at such a high rate of speed. He has told investigators that he doesn't recall the derailment itself or what caused it.

The focus on the engineer continues after investigators ruled out other possible issues like a bullet hitting the windshield, problems with the signals, the train and/or the tracks. The engineer's attorney insists that his client's cellphone was stored in his bag and turned off. Engineers are prohibited from using their phones while at the helm of a train.

According to Railroad Workers United, there were delays involving equipment that day that caused the train to run late. While he had a shortened break time because of the delays, the engineer reportedly told investigators that he did not feel tired or ill. His attorney asserts that the man was on no medications, had no health issues and that he submitted to blood tests.

The engineer had only been assigned to the route that goes from Washington, D.C. to New York for a few weeks prior to the crash that took the lives of eight people and resulted in more than 200 injuries. However, he had been making the round-trip journey five days a week during that period and had a "very good working knowledge" of the route, according to the NTSB.

Lawsuits against Amtrak have already begun. Anyone who has been involved in an accident that they believe resulted from negligence or recklessness by someone working for a rail or trucking company should explore their legal options. Compensation can help cover costs like medical and psychological treatment, lost wages and other damages.

Source: NBC 4 Washington, "What We Know About Deadly Amtrak Accident," Michael Sisak, May. 23, 2015

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