Why it may have happened
Certainly driver error could be at fault, but it is also possible that the system designed to warn a conductor or engineer of problems (like excessive speed) failed. Mr. Sumwalt told the New York Times that the engineer was already in the curve, and therefore could not decelerate in time. It is possible that the positive train control – a signal system in the tracks that “can dictate speeds and slow trains around curves” may have failed, or that the very warning system built into Amtrak trains may have malfunctioned.
The engineer himself is unable to remember exactly what happened. His attorney told CNN that he remembered hitting the emergency brake, and that he remembered calling 911 after he came to after the crash. A blood test proved he was not drinking or high when the crash occurred, though police are now asking to see his phone records to check if he was texting at the time.
There are still so many questions unanswered. We at Paulson & Nace, PLLC will be offering periodic updates regarding the Amtrak derailment so that you can find answers to those questions. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of everyone involved in this awful tragedy.