No video to help Amtrak probe -- despite NTSB recommendation

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Amtrak Resumes Service While Train Tragedy Investigation Continues

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Five years ago, federal accident investigators recommended that the government require video cameras in locomotive cabs to record engineers' actions. But it didn't happen. Now, that's left a gap in unraveling last week's fatal Amtrak derailment.

It's an old story for the National Transportation Safety Board. Accidents occur, people die and there is a clamor for action. Later, when attention moves elsewhere, recommendations frequently lag for years. Some are never realized.

In the Amtrak crash, the train was equipped with a "black box" data recorder and a camera focused on the track ahead. Information from those devices shows that in the last minute before the crash the train accelerated rapidly, reaching 106 miles per hour just before entering a curve where the speed limit was 50. Maximum braking power was applied in the last few seconds, but it was too late.

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Amtrak accident aftermath
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No video to help Amtrak probe -- despite NTSB recommendation
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Police shut down a ramp that lead to a train track near the site of a train derailment accident May 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 15: A construction worker begins to unload heavy machinery from a truck to repair damaged train tracks at the crash site of this week's Amtrak passenger train on May 15, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least 8 people were killed and more than 200 others were injured in the train derailment carrying more than 200 passengers from Washington, DC to New York. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 15: NTSM spokesperson Robert Sumwalt is interviewed about the Amtrak crash near the wreckage of this week's Amtrak passenger train on May 15, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least eight people were killed and more than 50 others were injured in the train crash carrying more than 200 passengers from Washington, DC to New York, which derailed on May 12, 2015 in north Philadelphia. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 14: NTSB spokesmen Robert Sumwalt walks over to speak to the media about the Amtrak train derailment, May 14, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Today rescue workers recovered another body from the wreckage after Tuesday night's Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia, the death toll now at eight with more than 200 injured. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 14: Joseph Boardman (L), President and CEO of Amtrak listens to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (L) speak about the Amtrak train derailment, May 14, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Today rescue workers recovered another body from the wreckage after Tuesday night's Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia, the death toll now at eight with more than 200 injured. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 14: Investigators and rescue personnel gather near the site of the Amtrak train derailment May 14, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: In this handout image supplied by NTSB, NTSB IIC Mike Flanigon (R) with Member Robert Sumwalt (L) and Vice Chairman Dinh-Zarr (Center-L) work on the scene of the Amtrak Train #188 derailment on May 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by NTSBgov via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter briefs members of the media near the site of a train derailment accident May 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: In this handout image supplied by NTSB, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt works on the scene of the Amtrak Train #188 derailment on May 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by NTSBgov via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: In this handout image supplied by NTSB, The NTSB Go Team arrives on the scene of the Amtrak Train #188 Derailment on May 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by NTSBgov via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: In this handout image supplied by NTSB, NTSB Recorder Specialist Cassandra Johnson (2nd R) works with officials on the scene of the Amtrak Train #188 derailment on May 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by NTSBgov via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: In this handout image supplied by NTSB, NTSB IIC Mike Flanigon (L) briefs Vice Chairman Dinh-Zarr on the scene of the Amtrak Train #188 derailmenton May 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by NTSBgov via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: In this handout image supplied by NTSB, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt with Philadelphia officials The NTSB Go Team arrives on the scene of the Amtrak Train #188 derailment on May 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by NTSBgov via Getty Images)
As Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer, right, Amtrak CEO Joeseph Boardman, second right, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, second front left, listen as Mayor Michael Nutter, right at podium, announces that an eighth body has been found and all believed to be aboard a deadly train derailment have been accounted for , Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Philadelphia. An Amtrak train headed to New York City derailed and crashed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night killing eight people and and sending more than 200 passengers and crew to area hospitals. Investigators have said the Amtrak passenger train was going more than twice the allowed speed when it shot off a sharp curve. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Investigators, center back, stand on the tracks near Tuesday's deadly train derailment, Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Philadelphia. An Amtrak train headed to New York City derailed and crashed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night killing at least seven people and sending more than 200 passengers and crew to area hospitals. The engineer in this week's deadly train derailment doesn't remember the crash, his lawyer said Thursday, complicating the investigation into why the Amtrak passenger train was going more than twice the allowed speed when it shot off a sharp curve. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
A flat bed truck hauls a section of new railroad track to the site of Tuesday's deadly train derailment, Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Philadelphia. At least seven people are dead and more than 200 people aboard injured, when the New York City bound Amtrak train derailed. Federal investigators have determined that the train was barreling through the city at 106 mph before it ran off the rails along a sharp curve where the speed limit drops to just 50 mph. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt speaks during a news conference Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Philadelphia. Sumwalt said the Amtrak train that derailed Tuesday in Philadelphia sped up for a full minute before it derailed at a sharp curve, killing eight people and injuring more than 200. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Graphic shows an annotated aerial image of the site of the crash including derailment area and placement of train cars after the crash.; 4c x 3 inches; 195.7 mm x 76 mm;
National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt speaks during a news conference Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Philadelphia. Sumwalt said the Amtrak train that derailed Tuesday in Philadelphia sped up for a full minute before it derailed at a sharp curve, killing eight people and injuring more than 200. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, center left, and Mayor Michael Nutter, center right, walk with others after visiting the investigation at the scene of Tuesday's deadly train derailment Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Philadelphia. Nutter announced that an eighth body has been found and all believed to be aboard a deadly train derailment have been accounted for. An Amtrak train headed to New York City derailed and crashed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night killing eight people and and sending more than 200 passengers and crew to area hospitals. Investigators have said the Amtrak passenger train was going more than twice the allowed speed when it shot off a sharp curve. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter briefs members of the media near the site of a train derailment accident May 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
As Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, center left, listens Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf addresses a gathering near the site of Tuesday's deadly train derailment Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Philadelphia. An Amtrak train headed to New York City derailed and crashed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night killing eight people and and sending more than 200 passengers and crew to area hospitals. Investigators have said the Amtrak passenger train was going more than twice the allowed speed when it shot off a sharp curve. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
As Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, left, listens Amtrak CEO, Joseph Boardman discusses Tuesday's deadly train derailment Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Philadelphia. An Amtrak train headed to New York City derailed and crashed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night killing eight people and and sending more than 200 passengers and crew to area hospitals. Investigators have said the Amtrak passenger train was going more than twice the allowed speed when it shot off a sharp curve. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Investigators, center back, stand on the tracks near Tuesday's deadly train derailment, Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Philadelphia. An Amtrak train headed to New York City derailed and crashed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night killing at least seven people and sending more than 200 passengers and crew to area hospitals. The engineer in the deadly train derailment doesn't remember the crash, his lawyer said Thursday, complicating the investigation into why the Amtrak passenger train was going more than twice the allowed speed when it shot off a sharp curve. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
A crane lifts a section of new railroad track from a flat bed track at the site of Tuesday's deadly train derailment, Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Philadelphia. At least seven people are dead and more than 200 people aboard injured, when the New York City bound Amtrak train derailed. Federal investigators have determined that the train was barreling through the city at 106 mph before it ran off the rails along a sharp curve where the speed limit drops to just 50 mph. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, center right, hugs Lori Dee Patterson, a nearby resident, after she handed him a cup of coffee after he spoke at a news conference near the scene of a deadly train derailment, Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. An Amtrak train headed to New York City derailed and crashed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, killing at least six people and injuring dozens more. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 14: NTSB spokesmen Robert Sumwalt briefs the media on the latest findings into Tueday's Amtrak train derailment, May 14, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Today another body was found raising the death toll to eight with more than 200 injured. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 14: Members of the National Transportation Safety Board gather near the site of the Amtrak train derailment May 14, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 14: Police gather near the site of the Amtrak train derailment May 14, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Repair crews inspect damages at the site of a train derailment accident May 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: NTSB member Robert Sumwalt briefs members of the media near the site of a train derailment accident May 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Maintance workers repair damaged lines after poles were knocked over when an Amtrak Northeast Regional Train derailed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2015. US investigators on Wednesday painstakingly combed through the twisted wreckage of an Amtrak train for clues as to why it derailed in Philadelphia, leaving at least six people dead and more than 200 injured. Officials warned the death toll could rise after the crash late Tuesday along the busy northeast US rail corridor linking Washington and New York, as some of the 243 passengers and crew believed to have been on the train had not yet been accounted for. AFP PHOTO/ ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
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The train derailed, leaving eight people dead, about 200 injured and a mangled mess of rail cars. Amtrak service between Philadelphia and New York didn't resume until Monday.

What investigators would like to know is why the train accelerated. Was it a deliberate act by the engineer? An accident? Or was there some other reason?

Questions have arisen whether the Amtrak locomotive was hit by a projectile of some kind as it passed through Philadelphia. An engineer for a local commuter railroad reported being hit by something shortly before the crash, and a conductor on the Amtrak train has told investigators she heard the Amtrak engineer, Brandon Bostian, say over a radio that their train had been hit as well.

Bostian, who suffered a head injury in the crash, has told investigators he can't remember anything after leaving the Philadelphia's 30th Street station, the last stop before the derailment, until after the crash.

It's exactly the kind of circumstance that the NTSB's recommendation for inward-facing video and sound cameras was supposed to address, says Jim Hall, who was the board's chairman in the 1990s. It's not unusual for engineers to be killed in train crashes, or to be seriously injured and not remember details clearly.

"To not have all the investigative tools when people have lost their lives in order to understand what occurred and to prevent it from recurring is a travesty," Hall said. "The black box can tell us what the controls did, but we don't know exactly what the operator did."

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Amtrak crash victims (including funerals & mourners)
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No video to help Amtrak probe -- despite NTSB recommendation
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Naval Academy shows Justin Zemser. Zemser, on a break from the U.S. Naval Academy and heading home to Rockaway Beach, New York, was among those killed when an Amtrak passenger train derailed Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Philadelphia.(U.S. Naval Academy via AP)
HEWLETT, NY - MAY 15: Midshipmen from the U.S Naval academy carry Midshipman Justin Zemser to a waiting car after his funeral on May 15, 2015 in Hewlett New York. Zemser was one of eight people who were killed in the derailment of an Amtrak train on May 12th in Philadelphia. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
HEWLETT, NY - MAY 15: Midshipmen from the U.S Naval academy carry Midshipman Justin Zemser to a waiting car after his funeral on May 15, 2015 in Hewlett New York. Zemser was one of eight people who were killed in the derailment of an Amtrak train on May 12th in Philadelphia. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
HEWLETT, NY - MAY 15: Susan Zemser and Howard Zemser attend the funeral for their son, Midshipman Justin Zemser, on May 15, 2015 in Hewlett New York. Zemser was one of eight people who were killed in the derailment of an Amtrak train on May 12th in Philadelphia. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
The @NavalAcademy is heartbroken to confirm that a #usna midshipman is among those who lost their lives in the #Amtrak188 derailment.
Surrounded by friends and family, Susan Zemser, center, and Howard Zemser, the parents of U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman Justin Zemser, prepare to speak to the media outside their home in New York, Wednesday, May 13, 2015. Zemser, 20, who was on leave and heading home to Rockaway Beach, N.Y., was killed when an Amtrak passenger train derailed and overturned in Philadelphia on the nation's busiest rail corridor Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
A Marine stands guard while mourners embrace as the arrive for the funeral service for U.S. Naval Academy midshipman Justin Zemser, Friday, May 15, 2015, at Boulevard-Riverside-Hewlett Chapel in Hewlett, N.Y. The 20-year-old sophomore was traveling from the academy in Annapolis, Md., to his home in New York City when he was killed in Tuesday's train derailment in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
In this Sept. 7, 2006 photo, Associated Press employee Jim Gaines poses for a picture. Gaines, an AP video software architect, was among those killed when an Amtrak passenger train derailed Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Santos Chaparro)
Paul Caluori, global director of AP Digital Services, discusses co-worker Jim Gaines, Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in New York. Gaines, a video software architect for The Associated Press, was killed in an Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Red Cross volunteer Sister Sharon White carries a large photo of Train 188 victim Robert Gildersleeve as she arrives at a service of reflection near the site of the Amtrak train derailment Sunday May 17, 2015, in Philadelphia. The U.S. passenger train operator Amtrak will resume full service in the Northeast Corridor on Monday in "complete compliance" with federal safety orders following last week's deadly derailment, officials announced Sunday. (AP Photo/ Joseph Kaczmarek)
Mourners hug after a funeral Mass for Robert Gildersleeve, Jr. at Roman Catholic Church of St. Catharine in Holmdel, N.J. Monday, May 18, 2015. Gildersleeve, Jr. was one of the victims of the Amtrak crash last week in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)
The casket containing the body of Laura Finamore, who was killed in the May 12 Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia, is carried from the church during her funeral, Monday, May 18, 2015, in New York. Finamore, 47, was returning to New York City from a memorial service for a college friend's mother when the crash occurred. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Sarah Leighton wipe away tears during a memorial at Medgar Evers College to mourn the loss of Derrick E. Griffith, the college's dean of student affairs, Thursday, May 14, 2015. Griffith, 42, of Brooklyn, was among the victims in Amtrak's train derailment. Leighton, who knew Griffith while she worked as a volunteer in the student affairs office, said "I didn't really have a father figure growing up, but he was that father figure for me." (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
A crowd of mostly students and staff bow heads during a prayer as they gather, during a memorial at Medgar Evers College to mourn the loss of Derrick E. Griffith, the college's dean of student affairs, Thursday, May 14, 2015. Griffith, 42, of Brooklyn, who had just recently earned his doctorate, was among those who died in Amtrak's train derailment. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Graphic shows victims of Tuesday's Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia.
Updates with new photos: graphic shows victims of Tuesday's Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia.
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Until recently the Federal Railroad Administration had opposed requiring the cameras, citing concern for the privacy of railroad employees and worrying that the images might be used punitively by railroads. Labor unions representing railroad engineers have also strongly opposed the cameras.

"Installation of cameras will provide the public nothing more than a false sense of security," Dennis Pierce, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, said following a December 2013 commuter train crash in the Bronx, New York, in which it was later determined the engineer had fallen asleep. "More than a century of research establishes that monitoring workers actually reduces the ability to perform complex tasks, such as operating a train, because of the distractive effect."

The railroad administration and the union didn't immediately respond to questions Monday from The Associated Press.

In the past few months, the railroad administration has told the NTSB that it intends to propose regulations requiring the cameras. However, no regulations have yet been proposed, and it typically takes federal agencies many months, if not years, to move from proposals to final regulations.

The NTSB first recommended requiring audio recordings of sound in locomotive cabs in the late 1990s following a commuter rail crash in Silver Spring, Maryland. None of the operating crew members survived the crash, and the board was unable to determine their actions leading up to the crash. The recommendation was repeated in about a dozen more crash investigations since then.

It was revised to include video cameras with sound five years ago as the board wrapped its investigation into one of the worst train collisions in memory - a Metrolink commuter train that failed to obey signals and collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train near Chatsworth, California, in 2008. Twenty-five people were killed, including the Metrolink engineer, and over 100 injured.

The NTSB later determined the engineer was distracted and didn't notice the signals because he had been sending text messages during the trip. But some deduction was involved in that conclusion.

"Clearly the visuals would have revealed what actually happened," said Mark Rosenker, who chaired the NTSB at the time of the Metrolink accident.

Over the past five years, the safety agency has repeated the camera recommendation in accident after accident, including as recently as last November when the board concluded its investigation into a collision between Union Pacific and BNSF Railway freight trains near Chaffee, Missouri, in May 2013.

"The NTSB remains concerned that the Federal Railroad Administration's delayed action .... leaves many safety lessons unlearned and further delays improvements for the safety of railroad operations," the board said at the time.

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