Amtrak engineer was obsessed with trains as a teen

Engineer of Derailed Amtrak Train Has 'No Explanation' for Crash

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Brandon Bostian was obsessed with trains while growing up, talked about them constantly and wanted to be an engineer or a conductor.

"He would go on vacation and bring back subway maps," Stefanie McGee, a friend from Tennessee, recalled Thursday. "He would go places with his family and he would talk about the trains instead of the places."

Bostian's teenage dreams would come true. But now, at 32, the Amtrak engineer finds himself at the very center of the investigation into the nation's deadliest train wreck in nearly six years.

22 PHOTOS
Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia
See Gallery
Amtrak engineer was obsessed with trains as a teen
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Investigators and first responders work near the wreckage of an Amtrak passenger train carrying more than 200 passengers from Washington, DC to New York that derailed late last night May 13, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least five people were killed and more than 50 others were injured in the crash. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Amtrak assistant conductor Brandon Bostian stands by on Aug. 21, 2007 as Sandra Palmer of University City says goodbye to her boyfriend, Clyde Simpson, as he leaves for work in Chicago at the Amtrak station in St. Louis. Bostian was the engineer of the Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia. (Huy Richard Mach/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Investigators and first responders work near the wreckage of an Amtrak passenger train carrying more than 200 passengers from Washington, DC to New York that derailed late last night May 13, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least five people were killed and more than 50 others were injured in the crash. (Photo by Win McNamee/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 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: Investigators and first responders work near the wreckage of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188, from Washington to New York, that derailed yesterday May 13, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least six people were killed and more than 200 others were injured in the crash. (Photo by Win McNamee/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)
National Transportation Safety Board lead investigator Robert Sumwalt speaks during a press conference regarding the wreckage of the derailed Amtrak Northeast Regional Train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2015. The engineer of a US passenger train traveling at more than twice the approved limit slammed on the emergency brakes just before it derailed in Philadelphia, leaving at least seven people dead, investigators said. AFP PHOTO / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Investigators and first responders work near the wreckage of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188, from Washington to New York, that derailed yesterday May 13, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least six people were killed and more than 200 others were injured in the crash. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Rescuers work around derailed carriages of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2015. Rescuers on May 13 combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least six dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescuers stand near a derailed carriage of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2015. Rescuers on May 13 combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least six dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescuers work around derailed carriages of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2015. Rescuers on May 13 combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least six dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Passengers queue infront of ticketing counters at Union Station on May 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. Rescuers on Wednesday combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least six dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued. Witnesses said the front of Amtrak Train 188, heading from Washington DC to New York, shook as it went into a turn and crashed at about 9:30 pm on Tuesday (0130 GMT Wednesday). AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Information screen showing cancelled train services at the Union Station on May 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. Service has been interrupted after Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least six people and injured more than 140. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Injured Amtrak passengers that were bused from to New York from Philadelphia wait at Penn Station May 13, 2015 in New York. Rescuers on Wednesday combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least six dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Passengers injured in an Amtrak train derailment who were bused from to New York from Philadelphia, walk through Penn Station May 13, 2015 in New York. Rescuers on Wednesday combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least six dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Carolan Berkeley (L), who had an Amtrak ticket to go from New York to Washington D.C., waits for a bus from New York to Washington D.C. on May 13, 2015 in New York City. An Amtrak train crash in Philadelphia last night has forced train service to be suspended between New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., causing commuters to use NJ Transit, flights and bus services. The crash killed at least six people and injured dozens more. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Emergency responders search for passengers following an Amtrak train derailment in the Frankfort section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 12, 2015. An Amtrak passenger train with more than 200 passengers on board derailed in north Philadelphia on Tuesday night, killing at least five people and injuring more than 50 others, several of them critically, authorities said. Authorities said they had no idea what caused the train wreck, which left some demolished rail cars strewn upside down and on their sides in the city's Port Richmond neighborhood along the Delaware River. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
A truck arrives with a new section of train track near at the site of a derailed Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 14, 2015. Federal safety investigators probing the deadly Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia were waiting to interview the train's engineer, whose attorney said on Thursday he did not remember the crash that killed seven people and injured more than 200 others. REUTERS/Mike Segar
A truck arrives with a new section of train track near at the site of a derailed Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 14, 2015. Federal safety investigators probing the deadly Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia were waiting to interview the train's engineer, whose attorney said on Thursday he did not remember the crash that killed seven people and injured more than 200 others. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (C-L at microphones) gives a news conference to a large gathering of media near the site of a derailed Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 13, 2015. Federal investigators were reviewing data from the black box recovered from the wreckage of the Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia to determine whether excessive speed played a role in the crash that killed at least six people and injured more than 200, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Mike Segar
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

He was at the controls of a train that investigators say barreled into a curve in Philadelphia on Tuesday night at more than 100 mph, or twice the speed limit. Eight people were killed in the derailment and more than 200 injured.

Investigators want to know why the train was going so fast. But Bostian refused to talk to police on Wednesday, authorities said. And investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board said they would give him a day or two to recover from the shock of the accident before talking to him.

Separately, the Philadelphia district attorney's office said it is investigating and will decide whether to bring charges.

Bostian's lawyer, Robert Goggin, told ABC News that his client suffered a concussion in the crash and has "absolutely no recollection whatsoever of the events." Goggin also said Bostian had not been using his cellphone, drinking or using drugs.

As the death toll climbed on Thursday with the discovery of what was believed to be the last body in one of the mangled railcars, Mayor Michael Nutter again appeared to cast blame on Bostian, questioning why the train was going so fast.

"I don't think that any commonsense, rational person would think that it was OK to travel at that level of speed knowing that there was a pretty significant restriction on how fast you could go through that turn," Nutter said.

Officials believe they have now accounted for all 243 passengers and crew members who were thought to have been aboard, Nutter said.

Forty-three remained hospitalized Thursday, according to the mayor. Temple University Hospital said it had six patients in critical condition, all of whom were expected to pull through.

Amtrak, meanwhile, said limited train service between Philadelphia and New York should resume on Monday, with full service by Tuesday. Amtrak carries 11.6 million passengers a year along the Northeast Corridor, which runs between Washington and Boston.

Bostian graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor's in business administration and management in 2006, the university said. He became an Amtrak engineer in December 2010, four years after landing a job as a conductor, according to his LinkedIn profile. He lives in the Forest Hills section of Queens, in New York City.

Old friends and college classmates described him in glowing terms.

"I have nothing but good things to say about Brandon," said Will Gust, who belonged to the Acacia fraternity with Bostian at the University of Missouri. "He is a very conscientious person, one of the most upstanding individuals that I know, just a really good quality person."

McGee, the friend who is now the city clerk in Bostian's hometown of Bartlett, a suburb of Memphis, said: "He always wanted to be a train engineer, a train conductor."

Bostian met up with college friends a few years ago in New York and told them he was working on trains.

"Oh yeah, he loved his job," said Justin Scott, another fraternity member with Bostian.

On an online forum for train enthusiasts called trainorders.com, a user who signed at least two of his posts with "Brandon Bostian" or simply "Brandon" commented on a wide range of industry issues, including safety. A couple of posts under the handle "bwb6df" lamented that railroads hadn't been fast enough to adopt "positive train control," GSP-guided technology that can prevent trains from going over the speed limit.

"They have had nearly a hundred years of opportunity to implement SOME sort of system to mitigate human error, but with a few notable exceptions have failed to do so," the writer posted in 2011.

The same user said in 2012: "It shouldn't take an act of Congress to get industry to adopt common-sense safety systems on their own."

It is unclear whether the author of the train-safety posts was, in fact, Bostian. In a message posted Wednesday, the site's administrator refused to release any information, citing privacy reasons.

Amtrak has equipped most of its heavily used Northeast Corridor with positive train control, but it was not in operation along the section where the accident happened.

However, on Thursday, Amtrak CEO Joseph H. Boardman vowed that the technology will be installed along the entire Northeast Corridor by the end of 2015, the deadline set by Congress.

On Tuesday, the job Bostian loved so much had him operating Amtrak's Train 188 from Washington to New York.

"He remembers coming into the curve. He remembers attempting to reduce speed and thereafter he was knocked out," said Goggin, his attorney. But Goggin said the engineer does not recall anything out of the ordinary and does not remember applying the emergency brakes, as investigators say was done.

He said Bostian's cellphone was off and stored in his bag before the accident, as required. Goggin said that his client "cooperated fully" with police and told them "everything that he knew," immediately consenting to a blood test and surrendering his cellphone.

Within hours of the wreck, Bostian's Facebook profile picture was changed to a black rectangle.

"I imagine he is holding onto this pretty heavily," said Scott, his fraternity brother.

Friends who seemingly knew about his role in the crash before his name publicly surfaced rallied to his side online. A Facebook friend whose profile identifies him as an Amtrak engineer living in California assured Bostian "it could have been any one of us."

---

More from AOL.com:
Student confronts Bush: 'Your brother created ISIS'
ISIS purportedly releases message from leader
Woman gets heart-stopping text aboard plane

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.