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FBI To Look At Possibility That Train Hit By Object Before Derailing

Emergency personnel work at the scene of a deadly train wreck, on Wednesday. The FBI is now looking into the possibility that the locomotive was struck by some sort of projectile.
Patrick Semansky AP
Emergency personnel work at the scene of a deadly train wreck, on Wednesday. The FBI is now looking into the possibility that the locomotive was struck by some sort of projectile.

The FBI has been asked to look into the possibility that the locomotive of an Amtrak passenger train that derailed in Philadelphia earlier this week — killing at least 8 people and injuring more than 200 — was struck in the windshield by a projectile.

As we reported on Friday, an assistant Amtrak conductor told investigators that she heard a radio transmission from a regional Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, or SEPTA, train engineer who made an emergency stop tell a dispatcher that he had "either been hit by a rock or shot at" just prior to the crash of the Amtrak train.

The conductor, who was not named, said she also recalled hearing engineer Brandon Bostian aboard the Amtrak train "say something about his train being struck by something." Bostian, who suffered a concussion in the crash, has been "extremely cooperative" in answering what he knows about the events, officials said. However, he says he does not remember the crash itself.

National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt, speaking at a news conference on Friday, said "Our investigation has not independently confirmed this information, but we have seen damage to the left-hand lower portion of the Amtrak windshield that we have asked the FBI to come in and look at for us."

Officials says they have no explanation yet why the seven-car Washintgon-to-New York train accelerated to 106 mph as it approached a curve rated at 50 mph just before derailing.

David Hughes, Amtrak's chief engineer from 2002 to 2005, tells Weekend Edition Saturday that he "can imagine someone being stunned for a moment by being struck by an object.

"[Especially] at a high speed like that," Hughes says, speaking to WESAT host Scott Simon.

"But I don't understand [why] ... there was over a minute when the throttle was advanced farther than it should have been. ... So, it doesn't really seem to me like that's a probable cause, but we'll have to wait and see," he says.

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