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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Jeb Bush on Iraq War; NTSB Official: Track Technology Could Have Prevented Crash; Is Engineer to Blame for High-Speed Crash? Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired May 14, 2015 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Eight people now dead from that Philadelphia train wreck that the engineer claims he cannot remember.
I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.
The national lead: the death toll rising in that Amtrak disaster in Philadelphia, an eighth body found today. Eight more people -- six more people, rather, remain in critical condition. This hour, Amtrak's CEO reacts to this disaster only on CNN.
Passengers were simply catapulted. They were not in seat belts, because there aren't any seat belts. It's something most of us never think about with our laptops out and earbuds in. How do you survive when a train flies off the tracks? Well, a safety expert will be here to offer some tips that might surprise you.
And the politics lead. His last name is Bush. He had to know they were coming, questions about his brother's decision to invade Iraq. Today, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush finally gave a definitive answer. Has he finally found an exit strategy from this issue?
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We are going to begin with the national lead and some breaking news, the death toll regrettably rising after that Amtrak train flew off the tracks in Philadelphia,the mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, a short time ago, announcing an eighth victim was pulled from the wreckage, thank you -- thanks to a rescue dog.
With at least 200 injured and six remaining in critical condition, many with rib cage injuries and fractures from being thrown around a train going 106 miles per hour around a 50 mile-per-hour curve, according to the National Transportation Safety Board investigators, just minutes ago, we learned the identity of another one of the victims, Laura Finamore, a native New Yorker, just 47 years old.
Mayor Nutter today also offering a little positive news, that passengers whose whereabouts had remained an emotionally painful mystery up until today are thankfully now all accounted for.
Meantime, the lawyer for the train's engineer is speaking out and saying that right now the man who was at the controls claims he does not recall the crash.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Has your client given you any explanation for why the train was going so fast?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has not. He has -- I believe as a result of the concussion, he has absolutely no recollection whatsoever of the events. I'm told that his memory is likely to return as the concussion symptoms subside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: CNN's Rene Marsh is live for CNN in Philadelphia.
Rene, just minutes ago, you spoke with Amtrak's CEO, his first comments on camera at the crash site. What did he have to say?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we now know what Amtrak's CEO does not believe caused this crash. He does not believe deteriorating railways is the cause here. He is very confident about the condition of these tracks, and, as you mentioned, this is the first time he is speaking out since this fatal crash.
JOSEPH BOARDMAN, CEO, AMTRAK: So this was the Frankford curve.
MARSH (voice-over): Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman at the crash site where New York-bound Train Number 188 jumped the tracks, the locomotive still on site, and steps away, a mountain of shredded, twisted metal from the damped cars.
BOARDMAN: You're heartbroken. You're sick to your stomach. And certainly you don't have something like this. This hasn't happened on the Northeast Corridor for 28 years.
MARSH (on camera): When you heard the news, 106 miles per hour in a 50 mile-per-hour zone, what was your initial feeling?
BOARDMAN: Well, we knew that that was too fast. Certainly, right away, we knew that.
MARSH (voice-over): Thursday morning, an eighth body was discovered.
DERRICK SAWYER, PHILADELPHIA FIRE COMMISSIONER: The dog hit on a couple of spots, and we were able to find one other passenger in the wreckage.
MARSH: Authorities now say all 243 people on board have been accounted for.
As crews work to repair the tracks, the NTSB investigation continues. They have taken 3-D imaging of the cars and continue to analyze the train's recorders. The other high priority? Interviewing the train's crew, including the engineer, 32-year-old Brandon Bostian. [16:05:06]
ROBERT SUMWALT, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD MEMBER: Certainly, he's not compelled to talk to the NTSB. We hope that we would have that opportunity. If we can't talk to him, then we certainly will use other means to try and piece together this puzzle.
MARSH: Meantime, some are questioning why Amtrak didn't install special technology on the tracks that would have automatically slowed the speeding train.
(on camera): What do you say to people who say, if it was installed, it could have prevented this fatal accident?
BOARDMAN: I would say that, had it been installed, it would have prevented this accident, because that's what I have been saying for a long period of time.
MARSH: And we went on to ask him, I mean, if he does believe in positive train control, this technology to slow the train, why wasn't it done in this section of the track?
He says it's a combination of time and money. You know, it just is a situation where they hadn't gotten to implementing that sort of technology in this area -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Rene, thank you so much.
Joining me now from Philadelphia is NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt.
Mr. Sumwalt, thanks so much for joining us. First, give us an update, if you would. Where are we now in this investigation?
SUMWALT: Well, today, Jake, is a really busy day for us. We're getting a lot done.
We have interviewed the -- or I'm sorry -- we have reviewed the forward-facing video camera. We are in the process of further evaluating the data that we got from the event recorders. We're making arrangements for the brake tests of the train, doing 3-D laser scanning of the railcars, so very busy day today.
TAPPER: Explain what that means, 3-D laser scanning of the railcars.
SUMWALT: Yes. We're able to take a -- basically a camera, if you will, on a transit and take multiple pictures from multiple angles of the railcar.
That allows us that, after we leave here, after the railcars are moved, we can virtually walk through those cars, look at things, take dimensions, and walk through it on our computer desktop.
Is there anything that you have learned from the black boxes or the front-facing video camera that you can tell us?
SUMWALT: At this point, there's nothing new to report, but I'm very optimistic that we will be able to provide information later today.
TAPPER: I want to play for you some of what Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said referring to the engineer. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL NUTTER (D), MAYOR OF PHILADELPHIA: Clearly, he was reckless and irresponsible in his actions. I don't know what was going on with him. I don't know what was going on in the cab. But there's really no excuse that could be offered, literally, unless he had a heart attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: A short time ago, Mayor Nutter clarified to say he was speaking from the heart, but he called the engineer reckless and irresponsible, said there's really no explanation.
What's your reaction to what Mayor Nutter had to say?
SUMWALT: Well, I want to start by saying that we really appreciate all the cooperation we have gotten from the city of Philadelphia, from the mayor's office and the mayor himself.
And the thing is, is that we don't want to prejudge the investigation, and I will just leave it at that. We want to make comments that are based on fact and then carefully analyze it. So, you know, we would encourage people not to draw -- not a rush to judgment. And the mayor and I have spoken about that, and he's explained that he's rolled those comments back a little bit.
TAPPER: The attorney for the engineer says that the engineer claims he has no recollection of the crash. Do you believe him?
SUMWALT: Well, it's certainly not uncommon.
How many people do we know that have been in car crashes, for example, that say, I don't remember the accident? That's not uncommon. We have been through a traumatic event, and the brain wants to protect us by filtering out those bad memories. And so that's not uncommon, and I hope that, when we do interview him, some of that memory will have come back.
TAPPER: When do you expect to hear from him, to speak with him? Today, tomorrow?
SUMWALT: Well, we're not expecting it to be done today, but we want to do it sooner than later. And I think by the time I meet with the investigator in charge later today, I should have an idea of what that timeline is.
It's important to give the person time to convalesce. He's been through a traumatic event, and it's also important not to wait too long, because memory -- memory and perceptions change over time. So we want to do it just as soon as we're able to do it.
TAPPER: Is there any other explanation beyond operator error that could explain how a train could all of a sudden be going 106 miles an hour in a 50 mile-per-hour area?
SUMWALT: Well, certainly, the things that we usually look at, and just big categories are generally speaking the human, the machine and the environment.
When I talk about environment, we're talking about things like visibility and rain and sleet and snow. And, obviously, we didn't have rain, sleet or snow the other night, but we want to make sure that visibility or whatever was not a factor.
When it comes to the mechanical issues, we want to look at the mechanical conditioning of the train, the braking system, the mechanics of the track, the signal system. And finally, when it comes to the human, we're talking about the human performance, the -- was fatigue an issue? Were distractions an issue? Was the engineer on a cell phone?
So, those are generally the three disciplines that we're going to look at in trying to put together a puzzle such as this.
TAPPER: Mayor Nutter announced not long ago that as far as Philadelphia knows, the city of Philadelphia knows, everyone has now been accounted for. How is that changing your investigation at this point?
SUMWALT: Well, it will allow us greater access to the site. And that's one significant area that it will change our investigation.
But, frankly, we have not really been held up on that. We have not gotten in there and gotten really up close and personal with documenting some of that wreckage. But we have been doing a lot of other things up to this point.
TAPPER: Robert Sumwalt of the NTSB, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.
SUMWALT: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: The stretch of track where this crash happened did not have new technology that would have automatically slowed the train down. Exactly how does this technology work? Why is there not more of it out there? And if you're in a derailment, certain spots where you sit on a train may actually increase your chances of escaping serious injury. That's next.
[16:15:56] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We have breaking news coverage on our national lead. The stretch of track where Amtrak 188 went airborne was missing a key piece of technology. It's called positive train control. This is technology that all Amtrak passenger rails in the United States are supposed to have installed by the end of this year. It's something an NTSB official and Amtrak's CEO both say it could have prevented this accident from happening.
CNN's Tom Foreman is standing by in the virtual room.
Tom, explain this for us. What does positive train control do?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Positive train control is an idea, Jake, that's been around for about 25 years. And putting it in place is not just a budget issue, it has also been a technological issue, because you're talking about building a matrix of information around every train out there. Starts with GPS, satellite systems, to tell the engineer precisely where he is at all times and to tell other trains where his train is.
Second element, basically ground stations that are alongside the tracks to tell them about switch positions where there might be work crews, other things to be concerned about. And then ground control stations that put all of that information together to make sure he knows where there are bends in the road, where there might be a trail, overpass, anything like that.
And it all comes out in a simple readout for the engineer that tells him at any given moment how fast he can afford to be going and when he has to start braking. If he gets too close to any type of hazard out there, the computers from this big matrix just take over and they automatically slow that train down and even make it stop if necessary, so we don't have a catastrophe, Jake.
TAPPER: Tom, the system costs about $14 billion to get into place, and then $900 million each year to maintain. What would we get for that money? What does it buy?
FOREMAN: What we would hope to get from all of that, and what congressional researchers believe we would get, is no more train-to- train collisions like we've seen before, we wouldn't see switching errors somebody doesn't realized they're put off on to a different track, where an accident might occur, you wouldn't see trains running up on work crews and importantly, you would not see what we just saw a couple days ago, which is a train coming too fast into a turn, because the computer wouldn't let any of this happen.
But this is important -- in terms of train collisions and derailments, this would stop 2 percent of them, 2 percent. An important 2 percent, but many more go on and it would do nothing to deal with people and cars getting on to the tracks, which actually kills hundreds of people every year, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman.
As we said, positive train control is mandated for all Amtrak passenger rail lines across the country by the end of this year. So, why wasn't it in place in this part of the country already? Well, one part of the reason, if you ask Democrats in Congress, is
Congress. They say Republicans are gutting Amtrak's budget and slowing the installation. Republicans say that's all wrong. They note, as Tom Foreman reported, the delay also has to do with the lack of radio towers or broadcast spectrum, and further, Republicans say that Democrats are exploiting a tragedy seemingly caused, at least at this point, by operational error, to get funding for a troubled money- sucking pet project.
In fact, House Speaker John Boehner ripped into a reporter earlier today when asked about the so-called "budget slashing", insisting that the question, which he insinuated was prompted by Democratic talking points was, quote, "stupid."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Listen, you know, they started this yesterday. It's all about funding. It's all about funding. Well, obviously, it's not about funding. The train was going twice the speed limit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: What is unquestionable here is the human toll, and this accident raising safety concerns far beyond this particular piece of technology.
Let's bring in CNN safety analyst David Soucie.
David, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.
[16:20:00] As you well know, trains unlike airplanes, do not have seat belts. Why?
DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: There's a couple of reasons for that, Jake. Namely, if installing the seat belt can cause further damage, and that is the case. There were two or three studies done back in 2007 when this came to light, and what can happen when installing seat belts into a train is that the seat in front of you or objects in front of you are not designed like they are in airplanes where they break away. So, if you have on a seat belt and in an accident are thrown forward it can literally cause concussions and break necks.
So, it has to be looked at as an entire system. Seat belts themselves are not the answer. It needs to look at the entire system onboard that train.
TAPPER: Victims of the crash reported they were flung on impact into windows, essentially turned into human projectiles.
In this case, specifically, if this Amtrak train had seat belts, might that have helped matters? It could have saved lives, possibly?
SOUCIE: Well, I don't know the specifics of which fatalities were in which cars. Typically in train accidents, the fatalities are caused by crushing, not by being thrown through the train. However, if you talk to the people and we have talked to the people onboard this train, they do have reports of people flying through, causing injuries by running into other people. That's the biggest fear and that's why seat belts are so effective.
It's not about restraining yourself. It's about restraining others from impacting you as they fly through. So, if we're going to use seat belts on trains, everyone has to use them, and that's one of the biggest problems, is enforcement and will everybody use the see belts, even if they're available?
TAPPER: As a general rule of thumb when it comes to train derailments, does it matter in which car one is sitting? Does that factor into the chances of someone survives a wreck like this? If you're in the back of the train, do you have better odds?
SOUCIE: Well, actually, you do, Jake. It comes to physics and inertia, a matter where you are in the train and what inertia is going to continue after it derails. As you can see in pictures from this tragedy, the continuing cars behind continue to go forward and all of that inertia, all of that energy, was trapped in that number two, or that number one cabin car which just continued to crush and get hit and hit and hit again, and crush that car.
So, just by looking at this, it's good evidence of the fact that the safer -- towards the rear. The rear train has some fatalities associated with it in the event of an accident or collision, and we've had fatalities in the rear car.
So, statistically speaking, probably the second car from the end would be the most, would be the safest place to be.
TAPPER: When you get on a train is there anything you do in case of a worst-case scenario? Do you sit a certain way? Do you sit in a certain car? Is there anything people should know going forward?
SOUCIE: I do. I sit in aft-facing seats. And most of the seats that on the trains that I ride, you can actually flip them around the other direction. If I'm facing forward, I can turn it around, face it in the aft direction. That's just better during, if there was an impact or if there was a derailment, you're forced back into your seat and thereby you would stay in that seat as opposed to being facing forward where you can become a projectile. So, when I ride trains, that's what I do.
TAPPER: All right. David, thank you so much.
SOUCIE: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: There was a lot to learn about the man who was operating that Amtrak train. What this engineer is and is not volunteering to investigators as he learn how the train jumped the tracks.
Plus, mixed messages from a potential presidential candidate, could it be a sign of a very long race for the White House in 2016?
[16:27:45] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper, with continuing coverage on his horrific story the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia.
Now that we know this train was barreling towards a 50 mile-an-hour curve at more than 100 miles per hour, more questions are being asked, of course, about the man at the controls, the engineer. It is still far from definitive that he is responsible for this crash. But he certainly should have a really good idea of what happened, even though his lawyer is claiming he does not remember the crash at all.
CNN's Drew Griffin is in Philadelphia right now, digging deeper on that part of the story.
Drew, the engineer has not yet spoken to investigators.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: That right, Jake, and until he does, because he was the sole driver of this train, we're never going to have a clear picture of what happened. But as you said today, again, another day of more silence.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Brandon bastion, the 32-year-old ill-fated Amtrak train, is still not talking to investigators. The only glimpse of an explanation comes from his attorney, who told ABC, Bostian recalls almost nothing.
ROBERT GOGGIN, ATTORNEY: I believe as a result of the concussion, he has absolutely no recollection whatsoever of the events. I'm told that his memory is likely to return as the concussion symptoms subside.
GRIFFIN: Bostian's attorney says his client has other injuries but is not in the hospital.
GOGGIN: He remembers coming into the curve. He remembers attempting to reduce speed thereafter. He was knocked out, thrown around, just like all the other passengers in that train.
GRIFFIN: The attorney says Bostian voluntarily submitted to a blood test and turned over his cell phone. Philadelphia's mayor who yesterday called Bostian reckless softened his tone today.
MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, PHILADELPHIA: Taken out of the vehicle, went to a hospital, received treatment, was interviewed by the police department, and I believe it was a pretty short interview in which he apparently indicated that he did not want to be interviewed.
GRIFFIN: The engineer grew up in Tennessee, went to the University of Missouri where he graduated in 2006 with a business degree. He was hired on at Amtrak as a conductor before rising to the rank of engineer in 2010, according to his LinkedIn profile.
His neighbor in Queens, New York, says it's a job he loves. MORESH KOYA, NEIGHBOR: He liked it. He was happy. He was happy with