By Jarrett Renshaw and Laila Kearney
A sketchy portrait of the man at the helm of the Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia began to emerge on Thursday as his lawyer said the engineer could not remember the crash and rescuers pulled an eighth body from the wreckage.
Philadelphia police said they have launched a criminal investigation into Tuesday’s crash of the New York-bound train that derailed while barreling into a curve at more than 100 miles per hour, twice the speed limit.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the engineer, identified as 32-year-old Brandon Bostian, triggered the emergency brakes seconds before the accident.
But his attorney, Robert Goggin, said Bostian has not been able to remember hitting the brakes or little else about the derailment, which left a trail of twisted metal and human carnage along the tracks, injuring more than 200 people.
NTSB officials said they have not yet interviewed the engineer and would give him time to recover from a concussion.
A University of Missouri graduate with a business degree, Bostian has worked as an engineer for more than four years after a stint as an Amtrak conductor, according to his LinkedIn page. While in college, he worked in a Target store.
Bostian, who hails from Memphis, Tennessee, was described as quiet and unassuming by people who recognized him in Forest Hills, a middle-class section of Queens where he lives in a large brick apartment house.
Aruna Jainaraine, 30, a cashier at a Key Foods supermarket a half-block from Bostian’s home, said he shops at the market occasionally. “I haven’t seen that person in weeks,” Jainaraine said, who recognized him from a photograph but didn’t know his name.
Three workers at the nearby Gloria Pizza shop said Bostian was a regular customer.
“He comes in once or twice a week and orders a slice,” said a man named Tony, who did not want to give his last name. “He’s a nice guy, polite.”
Hours after the derailment, Bostian blacked out his Facebook profile photo. Dozens of his Facebook friends wrote comments on his page afterwards, offering condolences and encouragement.
Efforts to reach Bostian’s relatives and social media connections were unsuccessful.
“REMEMBERS COMING INTO THE CURVE”
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said the engineer spoke briefly with investigators in the hours after the crash but declined to be interviewed in depth.
“I don’t think that any common sense, rational person would think that it was OK to travel at that level of speed knowing there was a pretty significant restriction on how fast you should go through that turn,” Nutter said, repeating an earlier comment about the engineer.
At a news briefing, Police Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan said his department was working with Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams on an investigation.
“We are gathering information and are still in the preliminary part of fact-finding,” said Cameron Kline, a spokesman for the district attorney.
Bostian was cooperating with authorities, according to Goggin, his lawyer, but had no memory of the crash and no explanation for what happened.
“He remembers coming into the curve, he remembers attempting to reduce speed, but thereafter he was knocked out just like all the other passengers on the train,” Goggin said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program.
Bostian, who suffered a concussion and gash to his head, does not remember deploying the emergency brakes, the lawyer said.
“I believe as a result of the concussion, he has absolutely no recollection whatsoever of the event,” Goggin said. “We will have to wait for his memory to come back or for other facts to be ascertained by the NTSB.”
Investigators want to talk to Bostian “as soon as he’s available,” Robert Sumwalt, an NTSB member who is serving as spokesman for the federal investigation, told Reuters.
“It’s not that uncommon at all to not remember things” after such a traumatic event, he said.
Nutter said at the media briefing that authorities have accounted for all 243 people, including five crew, believed to have been on the train when it crashed.
On Thursday morning, a cadaver dog found the body of a passenger in the twisted metal of the first car, Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer said.
Nutter said officials were not releasing information about the eight people who died. He said 43 people were still hospitalized.
Dr. Herbert Cushing, chief medical officer at Temple University Hospital, said at a media briefing that eight of the injured were in critical condition.