Deadly 2015 Philadelphia Train Wreck: When an Engineer Is at Fault

Trains have the least accidents when compared to other means of transport. But when train accidents do happen, they turn out tragic. In 2015, an Amtrak train heading to New York City from Washington DC wrecked at Philadelphia. It managed to kill at least eight people, 200 more survived with minor injuries, and eleven were in critical condition.

What Led to The Deadly Train Wreck?

The National Transportation Safety Board found the train wreck happened after the engineer was distracted by another train’s emergency news. He lost track of where he was and sped into a curve. The Board concluded that Brandon Bostian’s lack of situational consciousness led to the train wreck.

During an interview, Bostian, 37, told the investigators he remembered small details of what happened seconds before the train boomed into the 50mph curve at a speed of 106mph, causing the train wreck that injured multiple passengers. The Board found the other cause was the lack of an automatic braking technology acting as a backstop for Bostian in years.

Investigators’ examination completely covered every detail and possible cause of the deadly train wreck. They searched Bostian’s history of alcohol and drug abuse but found none. They looked into the train’s mechanical situation and found it was fit to be on track, with a sober-minded engineer qualified for duty with no alcohol or drug impairment.

The Amtrak Engineer suffered a head injury, which led to short-term memory loss that subsided and healed immediately. The stress of such events can be mind-blowing and often results in amnesia. Brandon recalled that moments before the crash, he got distracted over real-time news of another train being hit by a rock.

The tragic train wreck left rail cars scattering around Frankford Junction track; some ripped open and were left looking nothing like rail cars. Others lashed off the track at a speed of 103mph, landing on their sides.

Passengers landed onto each other, flew out of broken windows, crushed in the perverse wreckage, or were hit by flying luggage.

Future Plans to Improve Passenger Survivability

The National Transportation Safety Board says research is needed to improve passengers’ survivability in train wrecks, such as installing safer passenger windows or restraint systems. Amtrak considers what the NTSB says and is working on the improvement and safety development of other Amtrak trains.

Several months after the fatal wreck in twenty-two years, Amtrak wants to upgrade to automatic braking technology that could slow speeding trains. With such a system in place, Bostian could not have sped into the curve as the positive train control system would have automatically slowed the train down.

Criminal Charges against Engineer Brandon Bostian

The prosecution pressed criminal charges against Bostian for recklessness and involuntary manslaughter even though there was no adequate evidence to support the accusations.

The lawyers representing those injured and killed in the train wreck accuse Bostian of changing stories. His story starts with no account of what happened to now having a memory of what happened. They say all evidence points to Brandon, and he has admitted the blames for the train wreck. Whatever charges engineer Bostian may face remained unclear.

After the fatal train wreck, the city was calmer as trains were not operational in Philadelphia’s main train stations and those in Washington and New York. Some train stations like New York’s Penn station were sedated for a day while local trains and other workarounds were operating as usual. This was a significant loss to Amtrak and an inconvenience to many travelers.


It takes one distracted or reckless train engineer for a full-blown tragedy to happen. In Brandon Bostian’s case, eight people were killed, 11 were left with severe injuries, and 200 more had minor injuries.

Fortunately, train wreck victims can always sue the municipality and Amtrak for damages if they manage to survive. But they will need a team of experienced personal injury attorneys, like the experts at Morelli Law Firm, to get all the compensation they are due. Financial compensation may not bring back the dead, but it does help pay those hefty medical bills.

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