Pals of Amtrak engineer stunned at reports of recklessness

Friends of Brandon Bostian, the Amtrak engineer at the controls in Tuesday's deadly derailment, say the hard-working churchgoer they know doesn't jibe with reports he may have recklessly steered the packed commuter train into a curve at 106 miles per hour, more than double the allowable speed.

"He was a hard worker, and just a really good guy."

— Melissa McMasters, high school classmate of Brandon Bostian

Bostian, 32, is not speaking to the media or investigators, but has cooperated fully with the probe into the accident in a Philadelphia suburb which killed eight and sent more than 200 to hospitals. His attorney told ABC Bostian suffered a concussion and has little recollection of the crash, and said his client is devastated. Those who know the Tennessee native and Queens resident say they will be surprised if the probe shows Bastian put lives at risk unnecessarily.

"He was a hard worker, and just a really good guy," said Melissa McMasters, who attended Bartlett High School with Bostian, who graduated in 2001. She said Bostian enjoyed writing and worked for the school's newspaper, The Panther's Prey.

After high school, Bostian attended college at the University of Missouri in Columbia, where he was an active member of The Rock Church, located on campus, said friend Gretchen Maune. Bostian graduated with a degree in business management and administration.

"I remember him laughing and making me feel very comfortable," she told

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    Bostian, who now lives in Queens, N.Y., lived for a time in San Francisco, where he worked for Caltrain, a San Francisco-area commuter rail, according to NBC Bay Area. He has lived in New York since at least 2006.  According to his LinkedIn profile, Bostian became an engineer in December 2010, after four years as a conductor.

    Making the jump to engineer required skill in reading and interpreting technical documents and instructions, knowledge of electrical systems and passage of a background check and a grueling test.

    Bostian was thrilled with his job, driving the Northeast Regional Train 188 between New York and Washington, according to a neighbor in his apartment building in the Forest Hills section of Queens.

    "He told me he liked Amtrak," the neighbor told The New York Daily News. "He was happy working there, nothing negative. He was happy with his job."

    The train, a locomotive with seven passenger cars, was moving at 106 mph as it entered a curve where the speed limit is 50 mph, Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said Wednesday. Sumwalt said the engineer applied the train’s emergency brakes right before the crash. The last recorded speed was 102 mph before the entire train flew off the rails.

    “Clearly it was reckless in terms of the driving by the engineer," Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told CNN. "There’s no way in the world he should have been going that fast into the curve. 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 can be offered, literally, unless he had a heart attack.”

    Bostian was treated for the concussion, cuts to the head and a leg injury. His attorney, Robert Goggin, said his client doesn't have any known medical issues.

    “He said he had none. He’s on no medications … He has no health issues to speak of and just has no explanation,” Goggin told ABC.

    Crews at the scene Thursday afternoon were focusing on recovering the eighth victim found in the crash, and said all passengers were now accounted for. The National Transportation Safety Board is simultaneously conducting an investigation and collecting perishable evidence at the site.

    The NTSB said it hopes to talk to Bostian within a few days and his lawyer has indicated that he is willing to speak.