Robert Sumwalt of the NTSB: “…nothing at all from the Amtrak engineer to dispatch to say that his train had been struck”
Today on CNN’s State of the Union, NTSB member, Robert Sumwalt, joined senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar to discuss the status of Amtrak 188 derailing and investigation.
MANDATORY CREDIT: CNN’s “State of the Union”
On the direction of the investigation
“We don’t know how many — how many trains have been — have — were — were struck. We did listen to the dispatch tapes between dispatch and the trains, and indeed the SEPTA engineer did report to dispatch that he had been struck by something. But there was nothing, nothing at all from the Amtrak engineer to dispatch to say that his train had been struck. ”
Full transcript below:
FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Joining me now is National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt. So, Robert, give us the latest on the investigation. You have gotten a little bit of an assist at this point from the FBI, but the NTSB is really leading this up. Where do things stand?
ROBERT SUMWALT, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD MEMBER: You’re exactly right, Brianna.
We have asked the FBI to come in and provide their technical expertise on identifying this mark on the windshield. But you’re right. We’re still leading the investigation. We have gotten a lot done already, and there is a lot more that needs to be done.
KEILAR: How much credence do you give to the idea that this projectile — and tell us if you have any sense of what the projectile might be. Could it be a bullet? Could it be a rock? How much credence do you give to the idea that that may have contributed or even caused this accident?
SUMWALT: Well, at this point, we really want to chase this lead down. We heard from the assistant conductor that that is what she believed she heard, was some conversation about that.
And we see now a mark on the windshield that we want to look at. So, we are going to look at everything at this point.
KEILAR: There was a Regional line train, a SEPTA train that reported something. That is what the other conductor was saying, that she heard the main conductor talking with this SEPTA conductor that his train had also been hit by a projectile.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An unknown object made contact with that train, shattering the windshield.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KEILAR: Do you know how many trains at this point were hit by projectiles?
SUMWALT: We don’t know how many — how many trains have been — have — were — were struck.
We did listen to the dispatch tapes between dispatch and the trains, and indeed the SEPTA engineer did report to dispatch that he had been struck by something. But there was nothing, nothing at all from the Amtrak engineer to dispatch to say that his train had been struck.
KEILAR: So you are not hearing that corroboration coming from the dispatch tapes?
SUMWALT: We are not hearing that.
And, furthermore, we have interviewed the SEPTA engineer. And he did not recall having any conversation between him and the Amtrak engineer. But, nevertheless, we do have this mark on the windshield of the Amtrak train, so we certainly want to trace that lead down.
KEILAR: Have you? Do you know what made that mark?
SUMWALT: Tomorrow, the FBI will be on scene to assist us in identifying what that may have been.
KEILAR: OK. And, at this point, have you gotten results from the black box? It’s really a data recorder, isn’t it?
SUMWALT: It is indeed. It’s a black box.
And so there are really two force — sources of information, forward-facing video camera, which we have looked at, and also the event recorder, so we have obtained data from each of those.
KEILAR: When you look at this locomotive that was powering this train, and we are talking about a train increasing tens of miles per hour in the course of the final minute, what would it have entailed for the train to do that?
Would this have been operator error? Is this something that would have taken a lot of purposeful action? It seems, looking at other locomotive engines, that it would indeed. This is not even a one-step process.
SUMWALT: That’s right.
The only way that an operable train can — can accelerate would be if the engineer pushed the throttle forward. And that’s — we’re — we — the event recorder does record throttle movement. We will be looking at that to see if that corresponds to the increased in the speed of the train.
KEILAR: You have been getting cooperation from the conductor of the train. What have you been able to learn from him?
SUMWALT: And, to be clear, we have talked to the engineer, the person operating the train, so we have — he was fully — he was fully cooperative when we met with him on Friday. And then we have also interviewed two assistant conductors that were on the train.
KEILAR: But he doesn’t remember anything, or this is the report. He says he doesn’t remember anything after leaving North Philadelphia. Is that right?
SUMWALT: That’s right.
KEILAR: So, what does that mean for this investigation? Where do you go from here? And is there any hope that perhaps he will be able to recall — he does have a concussion, as we understand it. Where do you get those facts, if he doesn’t recall them?
SUMWALT: Well, and we have — we have called for inward-facing cameras. We called for that after a fatal accident in California that killed 25 people.
We want inward-facing cameras. And we have called for that. And we want that to happen.
KEILAR: Robert Sumwalt with the NTSB, we will be looking for more information as the days go on. Thank you so much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
SUMWALT: Thank you, Brianna.