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Amtrak Wreck in Philadelphia

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Posted by Euclid on Tuesday, May 16, 2017 6:39 PM

schlimm

 

 
Euclid

So if the public was not so "feeble minded," what exactly is it that they would understand about the role of the engineer in the Amtrak wreck?

 

 

 

Who knows? 

However, my thoughts in points 2-4 (only point 1 was noted by others) were these:

 2. Shooting the messenger (Schanoes) because some do not like his opinion that the train's engineer has a major portion of blame (percentage of contributory negligence)** seems pretty lame.

3. As radio communications are a normal part of the engineer's job description, that hardly qualifies as an unusual distraction for an unimpaired person.

4. If the engineer had a clinical attention disorder sufficient to impair his job performance, he had a duty to report that diagnosis.  AFAIK, he did not.

**  Blame in the form of percentage of contibutory negligence is levied every day in civil suits and I believe negligence is in manslaughter trials..  Deliberate intent is not part of that equation.  If a surgeon is distracted and accidentally nicks your aorta, causing your death, you can bet your family would sue and collect, and not because the surgeon deliberately did that act (some form of murder).

 

I agree with every point of that entirely.  It seems to me that the NTSB had gone out of their way to absolve Bostian of any responsible negligence for the wreck.  However, it seems that others here hold the opposite view, although they don’t come right out and say that.  Instead they accuse us of being overly critical of the engineer; or being feeble minded, or even “out of our minds” due to our lack of ability to see how hard it is to pay attention to the job.  
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Posted by dehusman on Thursday, May 18, 2017 12:09 PM

NTSB
"This type of situation could be addressed by better crewmember training that focuses on preventative strategies for situations that could divert crewmember attention."

Euclid
Notice that they say nothing about a crewmember taking responsibility by doing something to prevent their attention from being diverted. Instead, they say the remedy is to prevent situations that could divert a crewmember’s attention.

Nope.  What they are saying is that the railroad should develop preventative strategies for helping the crew members remained focused when a distracting situation arises, they are not saying that the railroad should eliminate distractions (prevent situations), it would be impossible to eliminate potential distracting situations.  The railroad cannot prevent something happening to another train (a distracting situation).  The railroad wants the train crew to be aware of the situation and take appropriate action (it may be required for safety).  What the railroad doesn't want it the crew to become so focused on the exception that they lose track of the normal (they need to remain "situationally aware").

This is not an uncommon event.  I have heard many investigations of crews going past red signals or blowing through speed restrictions or running into something because they were focused on another "situation" and lost track of the normal operation.  A crew is job briefing a Form B and misses an approach signal, so can't get stopped before passing a red.  Other industries have the same thing, an aircrew is so busy troubleshooting a minor failure they fail to maintain speed or altitude.  A bus driver get distracted by a problem in the passenger compartment and veres out of his lane.

It sounds so simple but is really difficult to do.

Dave H. Painted side goes up.

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Posted by schlimm on Thursday, May 18, 2017 12:18 PM

dehusman

 

 
NTSB
"This type of situation could be addressed by better crewmember training that focuses on preventative strategies for situations that could divert crewmember attention."

 

 

 
Euclid
Notice that they say nothing about a crewmember taking responsibility by doing something to prevent their attention from being diverted. Instead, they say the remedy is to prevent situations that could divert a crewmember’s attention.

 

Nope.  What they are saying is that the railroad should develop preventative strategies for helping the crew members remained focused when a distracting situation arises, they are not saying that the railroad should eliminate distractions (prevent situations), it would be impossible to eliminate potential distracting situations.  The railroad cannot prevent something happening to another train (a distracting situation).  The railroad wants the train crew to be aware of the situation and take appropriate action (it may be required for safety).  What the railroad doesn't want it the crew to become so focused on the exception that they lose track of the normal (they need to remain "situationally aware").

This is not an uncommon event.  I have heard many investigations of crews going past red signals or blowing through speed restrictions or running into something because they were focused on another "situation" and lost track of the normal operation.  A crew is job briefing a Form B and misses an approach signal, so can't get stopped before passing a red.  Other industries have the same thing, an aircrew is so busy troubleshooting a minor failure they fail to maintain speed or altitude.  A bus driver get distracted by a problem in the passenger compartment and veres out of his lane.

It sounds so simple but is really difficult to do.

 

I think you are confounding very different situations and behaviors.  The accidents you attempt to show as similar to the Philadelphia one are quite different in time span - yours momentary, Philly more prolonged. Prolonged inattention is not a function of a short-lived distraction. I think Bastian's behaviors reflect a more chronic problem which finally caught up with him and led to a tragedy.

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Posted by BOB WITHORN on Thursday, May 18, 2017 12:22 PM
David, very much like traveling the 200 miles of road every week for years and you begin to have trips where you do not remember passing some sign or barn or exit or whatever. You get lost in your thoughts or something I guess, but you can most definitely lose track of where you are.
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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, May 18, 2017 12:45 PM

schlimm
I think you are confounding very different situations and behaviors.  The accidents you attempt to show as similar to the Philadelphia one are quite different in time span - yours momentary, Philly more prolonged. Prolonged inattention is not a function of a short-lived distraction. I think Bastian's behaviors reflect a more chronic problem which finally caught up with him and led to a tragedy.

As I recall the 'inattention' was apporximately 26 seconds.

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Posted by RME on Thursday, May 18, 2017 12:56 PM

schlimm
The accidents you attempt to show as similar to the Philadelphia one are quite different in time span - yours momentary, Philly more prolonged.

I wasn't going to participate in this renewed wallow, but the point needs to be more carefully considered.

The point was made very early after the accident that the line after the Frankford Junction curve looks very similar, in the dark, to the area before it.  I do not find is surprising that a relatively momentary distraction might have made Bostian think he had traversed the curve, was seeing the area assuming (and being reinforced, by the similarity, into 'seeing what he expected' at night), and accelerating back to road speed.  That was, and is, so obvious an explanation, and all the other "explanations" so cobbled-up by comparison in explaining why he accelerated to 106mph in that short space, that I remain less than sanguine about why so much has been spun out as it has.  

Of course, it's not the only explanation, and it doesn't excuse Bostian for what is, at root, a mistake in judgment.  How it can possibly be construed as 'reckless' is something only lawyers beholden to other lawyers seem to be gaming -- heaven knows the court system put the kibosh on the first two 'personal' attempts at criminal filings in no uncertain terms -- and that appears to be one of the key issues that plaintiffs' attorneys are trying to sidestep with what I consider to be machinations.

I'm also not sure why you think that some of the in-air 'distractions' weren't as long as those in Bostian's case.  The 'loss of inattention' only needed to be long enough to induce loss of absolute situational awareness. after which normal reinforcing clues ... albeit ultimately very false ones ... created a false rational situational awareness in which unsurprising rational decisions were made.

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Posted by wanswheel on Thursday, May 18, 2017 1:15 PM

schlimm
Prolonged inattention is not a function of a short-lived distraction.

Excerpt from NTSB report

At 9:10 p.m., the train left the 30th Street Station…

…the engineer said he was monitoring the radio when he heard an eastbound Southeastern Philadelphia Transportation Authority (SEPTA) train engineer and the train dispatcher discussing an incident in an area he was approaching. During the 6-minute conversation [9:13:11 - 9:19:13], the SEPTA engineer said his windshield was shattered near the Diamond Street Bridge…

…The engineer began emergency braking at 9:20 p.m.

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Posted by Euclid on Thursday, May 18, 2017 3:02 PM

dehusman
 
NTSB
"This type of situation could be addressed by better crewmember training that focuses on preventative strategies for situations that could divert crewmember attention."

 

 
Euclid
Notice that they say nothing about a crewmember taking responsibility by doing something to prevent their attention from being diverted. Instead, they say the remedy is to prevent situations that could divert a crewmember’s attention.

 

Nope.  What they are saying is that the railroad should develop preventative strategies for helping the crew members remained focused when a distracting situation arises, they are not saying that the railroad should eliminate distractions (prevent situations), it would be impossible to eliminate potential distracting situations.  The railroad cannot prevent something happening to another train (a distracting situation).  The railroad wants the train crew to be aware of the situation and take appropriate action (it may be required for safety).  What the railroad doesn't want it the crew to become so focused on the exception that they lose track of the normal (they need to remain "situationally aware").

It sounds so simple but is really difficult to do.

Dave,

The NTSB said this and I added the red and blue designations:

"This type of situation could be addressed by better crewmember training that focuses on preventative strategies for situations that could divert crewmember attention."

That part in blue sounds to me like they want to prevent situations that could divert a crewmember’s attention; and not that they want to prevent the crewmember from allowing his attention to be diverted. 

HOWEVER:  The part in red sounds like they are saying that such training would have left Bostian better equipped to deal with the distressing news without becoming distracted. And by calling it “crewmember training,” clearly they are referring to training employees how to cope with distracting situations; and not referring to training railroad companies how to prevent distracting situations.    

So I have no idea what the NTSB is really saying in this ambiguous statement.  Preventative strategies are fine, but the NTSB needs to say what it is that they want to prevent. 

I agree that whichever way you interpret it, it will be impossible to totally solve the problem of distraction.  But it seems to me that the NTSB is siding with labor against management in this case. 

Traditionally, in the view of management, distraction has never been a legitimate excuse for causing an accident.  It was considered to be part of the job to not let yourself become distracted to the point of causing an accident. 

Whether the NTSB is saying that companies should eliminate sources of distraction or eliminate the personal vulnerability to become distracted—either one would be the company’s responsibility.   So any accident caused by a distraction under such an assumption, would be the fault of the company and not the employee. 

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Posted by schlimm on Thursday, May 18, 2017 6:32 PM

wanswheel

 

 
schlimm
Prolonged inattention is not a function of a short-lived distraction.

 

 

Excerpt from NTSB report

At 9:10 p.m., the train left the 30th Street Station…

…the engineer said he was monitoring the radio when he heard an eastbound Southeastern Philadelphia Transportation Authority (SEPTA) train engineer and the train dispatcher discussing an incident in an area he was approaching. During the 6-minute conversation [9:13:11 - 9:19:13], the SEPTA engineer said his windshield was shattered near the Diamond Street Bridge…

…The engineer began emergency braking at 9:20 p.m.

 

Six minutes is not merely a short-lived period of distraction of the type which anyone can suffer on occasion  Bastian's sounds more like a chronic condition (disability) for which he should have received treatment, ordinarily.  However, the need for and use of psychoactive meds usually is disqualifying for pilots (definitely) and engineers (probably).

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Posted by Dakguy201 on Thursday, May 18, 2017 6:43 PM

RME



Of course, it's not the only explanation, and it doesn't excuse Bostian for what is, at root, a mistake in judgment.  How it can possibly be construed as 'reckless' is something only lawyers beholden to other lawyers seem to be gaming -- heaven knows the court system put the kibosh on the first two 'personal' attempts at criminal filings in no uncertain terms -- and that appears to be one of the key issues that plaintiffs' attorneys are trying to sidestep with what I consider to be machinations.

I have major misgivings about the criminalization of incidents in which no injurious intent nor previous conduct can be demonstrated.  I think most of them are the result of the ambition of lawyers/politicians attempting to attain higher position by climbing over the bodies of the victims.  Bostian may lose in civil actions over this crash, but that is a different matter.  

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, May 18, 2017 7:11 PM

Dakguy201
I have major misgivings about the criminalization of incidents in which no injurious intent nor previous conduct can be demonstrated.  I think most of them are the result of the ambition of lawyers/politicians attempting to attain higher position by climbing over the bodies of the victims.  Bostian may lose in civil actions over this crash, but that is a different matter. 

Agree.  There are no accidents in the world of political granstanding by prosecutors and the judicial system.

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Posted by wanswheel on Friday, May 19, 2017 9:50 AM

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Friday, May 19, 2017 10:08 AM

BaltACD
 
Dakguy201
I have major misgivings about the criminalization of incidents in which no injurious intent nor previous conduct can be demonstrated.  I think most of them are the result of the ambition of lawyers/politicians attempting to attain higher position by climbing over the bodies of the victims.  Bostian may lose in civil actions over this crash, but that is a different matter. 

 

Agree.  There are no accidents in the world of political granstanding by prosecutors and the judicial system.

 
If I have read past news items properly, this prosecution was forced by a private citizen's complaint to a state judge, who then ordered this action.
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Posted by tree68 on Friday, May 19, 2017 12:51 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH
If I have read past news items properly, this prosecution was forced by a private citizen's complaint to a state judge, who then ordered this action.

Which takes us back to "heads must roll!"

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Posted by Norm48327 on Friday, May 19, 2017 1:04 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH
If I have read past news items properly, this prosecution was forced by a private citizen's complaint to a state judge, who then ordered this action.

I would question why a state judge has the authority to rule on this given that Amtrak is a federally owned and funded  corporation although with contributions from the states. Who presides here? States or federal government?

Yeah, I know some jail-house lawyer will be along soon to over rule my objection.

Norm


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Posted by RME on Friday, May 19, 2017 1:04 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH
If I have read past news items properly, this prosecution was forced by a private citizen's complaint to a state judge, who then ordered this action.

No.  The private citizens' complaint actions, even as filed by their lawyers, were rejected by the municipal court out of hand (see the docket wanswheel provided) for the specific reason that the necessary statutory 'recklessness' wasn't and couldn't be established.

The current action, at the apparent behest of an ex-narc whose connection with statutory interpretation seems suspiciously overemphasized, is a political move, and I find it impossible to see the hand of the 'lawyer community' in it.  I do not know whether a grand jury is still needed to file actual charges based on the "complaint", or if Bostian can be extradited to Pennsylvania and arraigned on charges if that does not happen -- and all that I have read says that the relevant grand jury will not do so.

But it is likely lawyers' manipulations, not a private citizen's complaint, that governs the most recent action. 

That's not to say that I don't sympathize with the victims of the accident, or with their right to recover damages.  It's the manipulation of the system, the drawing out to the last minute to bill the maximum possible amounts, and most wickedly the attempted criminalization of that young man's actions just to simplify getting easier civil damages that irritate me.  But then again, I was raised, and am old enough to still believe, that a fundamental principle of the law concerns justice.

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, May 19, 2017 1:05 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH
BaltACD
Dakguy201

Agree.  There are no accidents in the world of political granstanding by prosecutors and the judicial system.

If I have read past news items properly, this prosecution was forced by a private citizen's complaint to a state judge, who then ordered this action.

In this jurisdiction are Judges elected by the electorate or appointed by the ruling party?  Politics and the judiciary are rarely separate from each other.

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Posted by Norm48327 on Friday, May 19, 2017 1:27 PM

RME
But it is likely lawyers' manipulations, not a private citizen's complaint, that governs the most recent action.

RME,

That appears to be the norm of late. Lawyers have something to gain by taking frivioulous suits to court even though it may be fleecing of the complainant. Too common in this day and age for certain. OTOH, I do know an honorable attorney who has never spent a day in court. He makes an honorable living doing land title for farms. I wont paint all with the same brush.

Norm


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Posted by RME on Friday, May 19, 2017 2:09 PM

Norm48327
OTOH, I do know an honorable attorney who has never spent a day in court. He makes an honorable living doing land title for farms. I won't paint all with the same brush.

Nor I -- my own sister is a corporate attorney and partner in a major firm in Pennsylvania. 

On the other hand, both she and I have seen firsthand the effect of a malpractice suit being frivolously protracted via just this sort of just-in-time filing of extensions and claims, even after formal judgment, for no purpose other than padding the bill (and inducing some kind of settlement to make the nuisance go away) and it is lawyers of that stripe -- we used to be able to call them 'shysters' before that became too pejoratively associated -- that are the problem here. 

I knew a couple of the lead attorneys in one of the silicone-breast-implant class-action cases when I lived in Marina del Rey -- one had become both an expert in some very arcane aspects of bioengineering and a strong advocate of damages for anyone with an implant, defective or otherwise.  I have respect for positions with which I disagree when they are legitimately founded ... whether or not there are 'large money damages' at stake or even if I wholly agree with the premises.  I don't find this last-minute stab at criminalization to be much, if anything, to be accorded respect, nor do I respect the people who are furthering it.

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Friday, May 19, 2017 3:29 PM

BaltACD
In this jurisdiction are Judges elected by the electorate or appointed by the ruling party?  Politics and the judiciary are rarely separate from each other.

Elected. 

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, May 19, 2017 4:14 PM

Paul_D_North_Jr
BaltACD

Elected.

Nothing like running for re-election to make judges apolitical!!!!!

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Posted by wanswheel on Saturday, May 20, 2017 11:44 AM
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Posted by Dakguy201 on Sunday, May 21, 2017 12:22 PM

I thinking about the criminal charges faced by the engineer in this incident, what about the Amtrak managers who decided that their version of PTC would not include this curve?  Had the train been southbound, the curve is PTC protected.   Can they be charged and conviced for the lack of northbound protection?  

My answer is of course not, as far as we know those managers made decisions based in large part on the funds available.  To second guess them in criminal court is irresponsible if not legal malpractice.

Unfortunately, I won't be on the jury should the engineer's case get that far. 

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Posted by MrLynn on Wednesday, May 24, 2017 9:44 PM

Paul_D_North_Jr

Ricky Gates was the engineer; was Cromwell the brakeman ? 

(Rear-End Collision of Amtrak Passenger Train 94, The Colonial and Consolidated Rail Corporation Freight Train ENS-121, on the Northeast Corridor - Jan. 4, 1987)  

- PDN.

I remember that wreck well, because my family and I were on the same train the day before.  Whenever I'm reminded, I think, with a cold chill, "There but for. . ."

As for Amtrak 188, the families got settlements from Amtrak.  Engineer Bostian has doubtless suffered enough.  The circumstances have been hashed and rehashed to a fault.  In my opinion, there have got to be times when two men in a cab calling out signs and signals can help prevent a situation where a moment of confusion in a single-manned cab can lead to disaster.  But I know many railroaders will deny this.  And yes, as I recall there were two in Conrail ENS-121.

/Mr Lynn 

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Posted by wanswheel on Wednesday, June 07, 2017 11:37 AM

Excerpt from Reuters, June 7

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-train-derailment-idUSKBN18Y148

A preliminary hearing for the former Amtrak engineer charged with involuntary manslaughter in a 2015 crash that killed eight passengers and injured 200 others in Philadelphia was postponed on Wednesday due to a lawyers' scheduling conflict.

A judge ruled that the hearing for Brandon Bostian will be rescheduled for September 12th at the request of defense attorney Fortunato Perri.

Perri asked for the delay because his law partner, Brian McMonigle, was busy with a high-profile sexual assault case against comedian Bill Cosby that is taking place in a Philadelphia suburb.

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