Eighth victim found after US train crash, as probe deepens

An investigator surveying the derailed Amtrak train in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on May 14, 2015. Rescuers with sniffer dogs found an eighth victim on Thursday in the mangled wreckage, as investigators focused on the engineer's actions in the run-up
An investigator surveying the derailed Amtrak train in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on May 14, 2015. Rescuers with sniffer dogs found an eighth victim on Thursday in the mangled wreckage, as investigators focused on the engineer's actions in the run-up to the crash. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Rescuers with sniffer dogs found an eighth victim Thursday in the mangled wreckage of a train that derailed in Philadelphia, as investigators focused on the engineer's actions in the run-up to the crash.

All 243 people aboard the train - which ran off the rails late Tuesday, leaving some cars overturned and reducing others to twisted heaps of metal and debris - have now been accounted for, officials said.

Amtrak Train 188, which was traveling from Washington to New York, crashed as it entered a curve while moving at a little over 100 miles (160 kilometers) per hour - twice the 50 mph speed limit, according to investigators.

Video leading up the crash shows the train accelerating as it nears the curve, rocketing from 70 mph to over 100 mph in the minute or so before the footage cuts out, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

Investigators said they had completed 3D scanning of the two most damaged cars and had started talking to passengers to try and find out what happened in the lead up to the accident.

"We want to find out their perspective of things. We want to find out where they were seated, and their injury patterns so that we can start correlating their injuries for accident survival," NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt said.

He added that the train had been inspected before its departure Tuesday, and said: "There are no anomalies noted in any of those inspection records." The train's driver, identified by US media as 32-year-old Brandon Bostian, has agreed to be interviewed by the NTSB, according to the agency's Twitter feed.

The compromised state of some of the cars left rescuers with a difficult job ensuring all bodies had been removed, and recovery workers found the latest body with the help of a cadaver-sniffing dog.

Apart from the eight fatalities, more than 200 people were injured in the wreck.

President Barack Obama offered his condolences to victims, and said he was committed to a thorough probe of the accident.

"I offer my prayers for those who grieve, a speedy recovery for the many who were injured as they work to recover," he said.

"We will cooperate obviously at every level of government to make sure that we get answers in terms of precisely what happened."

'Reckless' train driver

Investigators turned to the actions of the train's driver Thursday, in an attempt to uncover what caused the crash.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter previously described Bostian's actions as "reckless," but on Thursday distanced himself somewhat from the remark and said he was merely being "expressive." "But I don't think that any common sense, rational person thinks that it was okay 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.

Bostian's attorney Robert Goggin told ABC News on Wednesday night that Bostian had no explanation for the crash and no recollection of it either.

Bostian has provided a blood sample, turned over his cell phone and is cooperating with authorities, Goggin said, according to ABC.

Bostian "was interviewed by the police department, but I believe it was a pretty short interview in which he apparently indicated that he did not want to be interviewed," Nutter said.

"He doesn't have to be interviewed if he doesn't want to at this particular stage - that's kind of how the system works." Investigators recovered the train's "black box" data recorders but the NTSB has cautioned that its first assessment of the data was preliminary, and that it would need more time to piece together what happened.

Experts and some lawmakers say the crash could have been avoided if Amtrak had fully implemented a high-tech backup system called Positive Train Control, which prevents trains from speeding or going through red lights.

Although Amtrak has been installing the system for years across its vast rail network, the stretch of track where the crash occurred was not covered.

"We had to change a lot of things on the corridor to make it work, and we're very close," Amtrak chief executive Joseph Boardman told reporters.