Evidence from a footage that was captured from the cab of the Amtrak train shows that the engineer did not appear to be using a cellphone or any other personal electronic device just before the derailment.
The Amtrak train hurtled off the tracks in Washington State killing three people and injuring dozens. The footage was captured from a camera facing inside the cab, it also revealed that the engineer was heard commenting about the train's speed just before the train crashed while traveling more than double the posted 30 mph (48 kph) speed limit.
However, authorities are yet to provide a transcript of what the engineer said, only a summary was issued saying "about six seconds prior to the derailment, the engineer made a comment regarding an over-speed condition."
The preliminary details by the National Transportation Safety Board indicate that the engineer did not place the train's brake handle in the emergency-braking mode as the locomotive was recorded traveling 78 mph (126 kph).
The safety board revealed that the video "ended as the locomotive was tilting and the crew was bracing for impact" south of Seattle on Monday. Onboard it had 85 passengers and crew members as it made its inaugural run along a fast, new 15-mile (24-kilometer) bypass route. There are also reports from officials saying that another person was inside the locomotive's cab being trained by the engineer.
The cause of the wreck is still under investigation after the Federal Investigators gathered the locomotive's event data recorder as well as inward- and outward-facing train cameras. They have said their full investigation could take more than a year.
The reports issued by NTSB board member Bella Dinh-Zarr said earlier this week that the locomotive's emergency brake went off automatically and was not manually activated by the engineer.
According to rail-safety experts, the engineer should have activated the brake about a minute before the train reached the curve posted for 30 mph (48 kph), and that not doing so strongly suggested that the engineer may have been distracted for an extended period.
Unfortunately, there’s no critical train speed-control technology that could have prevented a derailment on the section of track where the derailment happened. Installation of the GPS-based technology known as positive train control is not expected to be completed until next spring on the newly opened span where the train derailed.
According to rail crash data, nearly 300 people have died in train crashes that could have been prevented if railroads across the U.S. implemented that critical speed-control technology.
To the investigators, it remains a mystery as to whether the engineer was distracted by something in or outside the cab.