Amtrak train 'may have been shot at' before crash

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Investigators have said the Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia may have been hit by projectiles shortly before its wreck.

The developments come after US investigators interviewed members of the Amtrak crew.

However, the engineer driving the train said that he had no memory of the moments leading up to the crash, which occurred on Tuesday night. In total, eight people were killed and over 200 were injured.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has now been called to examine a part of the driver’s cabin window, which contains a circular damage pattern and could indicate the point where an object struck.

Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), added that “the driver was extremely cooperative, but he could not remember what happened”.

The revelation that the train might have been struck by an object meant that the crash probe, which was initially focused on why the train accelerated to over 100mph when the authorised speed was 50mph, has taken an unexpected twist.

The unexplained speed has renewed calls for the installation of "positive train control" technology, which can automatically slow or stop a train to prevent an accident.

An assistant conductor told NTSB investigators on Friday that she heard the engineer, Brandon Bostian, 32, talking by radio with the driver of another train from the south eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).

According to the other driver, he had reported that his windscreen had been cracked by a projectile which he believed was either fired from a gun or thrown at the train. He had made an emergency stop as a result.

The conductor told investigators that Mr Bostian then replied that he believed his Amtrak train, which was destined for New York, had been similarly struck just after the previous stop, Mr Sumwalt said.

Moments after the Amtrak train began to round the curved section of track at twice the authorized speed and derailed in the city's Port Richmond neighbourhood near to the Delaware River, according to her account.

Mr Sumwalt said FBI agents would arrive on Friday night to examine a remnant from the lower left-hand corner of the locomotive's shattered windscreen and appeared to have been cracked by a flying object.

Speaking to the press, Mr Sumwalt said: “Our investigators found the engineer to be extremely cooperative. The engineer encouraged us to contact him further if we needed anything else.

“The drivers was required to sound his bell as he passed the station which he recalled doing, but he has no recollection past that.

“He felt fully qualified and comfortable with his equipment and reported no problems with his train handling.

“When asked he provided very good knowledge of the territory, things like speed limitations.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Friday that a third train had also been hit by an unidentified projectile that cracked a window of one of the cars, just before it entered 30th Street station, the last station Amtrak no. 188 had left before it derailed.

Federal safety investigators said they were aware of the report of a third train being hit.

Additional reporting by Reuters