Philadelphia Amtrak Crash: Train Was Going Faster Than 100 MPH, Sources Say

Philadelphia Amtrak Crash: Train Was Going Faster Than 100 MPH, Sources Say (Image 1)

PHILADELPHIA AMTRAK CRASH: THE LATEST

  • The train was traveling faster than 100 mph, the NTSB confirms.
  • Mayor Michael Nutter says crews are still searching the wreckage.
  • Authorities still have not accounted for everyone on board.
  • Passengers “rattled around in the train car a lot.”

The Amtrak train that crashed in Philadelphia was traveling faster than 100 mph, federal investigators said Wednesday — twice the speed limit at the curve where it hurtled off the tracks.

Police raised the death toll to seven, and authorities said they still had not accounted for everyone on board.

The speed reading was confirmed by the National Transportation Safety Board. The data recorder from Amtrak Regional 188, which derailed Tuesday night on its way from Washington to New York, was recovered as authorities combed the mangled wreckage.

The speed limit drops from 70 mph to 50 mph at the curve where the train derailed.

A city official said hospitals treated more than 200 patients. Amtrak asked people who walked away from the crash to call in as authorities tried to make sure everyone was accounted for.

The seven dead comprised four people whose bodies were found inside the train, two who were found outside and one who died at a hospital, police Lt. John Walker told NBC Philadelphia.

Two were identified — Justin Zemser, 20, a Navy midshipman who was on leave and going home to New York, and Jim Gaines, 48, an Associated Press video software architect. Mayor Michael Nutter said authorities were notifying relatives of all the dead.

“We’ve suffered a tragedy here in our city,” Nutter said at an afternoon news conference. “I don’t believe that anyone standing here today has any memory of a derailment of this kind in 50 years.”

Dozens of people were still being treated in Philadelphia hospitals with injuries ranging from cuts and broken bones to head trauma.

Chief Medical Officer Herbert Cushing said Temple University Hospital, where many of the most seriously injured were being treated, had eight patients in critical condition, who he said “are going to do just fine.”

“Almost everyone has rib fractures,” Cushing said, which indicates that “they rattled around in the train car a lot.”

The patients at Temple are all adults ranging in age from their early 20s to their 80s, Cushing said. Patients from Spain, Belgium, Germany, India and Albania are among those involved.

The engineer of the train was also injured and gave a statement to police, Nutter said.

Investigators spent the day combing for clues at what Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, described as “a horrific and heartbreaking scene.” The mayor vowed not to call off the search until crews had checked out every inch of the wreckage.

The derailment damaged all seven cars of the train, including some that were overturned and one that was mangled. Passengers and luggage were tossed around inside, and survivors described having to force doors open or clamber through windows to safety.

Grainy security footage from a nearby camera captured several flashes of bright light as the train crashed.

READ MORE: Full coverage from NBC 10 Philadelphia

Amtrak suspended service between New York and Philadelphia on its Northeast Corridor, the busiest stretch of track in the country for passenger travel.

The train was believed to have carried 238 passengers and five crew members, meaning it would have been about half full. At an afternoon news conference, Nutter declined to say how many were unaccounted for, and he said authorities were not certain of the number on board.

Sam Phillips, the city’s emergency management director, asked people who walked away from the crash to call Amtrak at 800-523-9101.

“We have made really good progress in accounting for the majority of individuals, but we still have folks we would like to hear from,” she said.

ApprenNet, a Philadelphia job-placement company, said its chief executive, Rachel Jacobs, was among the missing.

Passengers described a sudden shake, then a harrowing scene.

“Chairs inside the train became unscrewed, and suitcases were falling on people,” said Max Helfman, 19, who was returning home to New Jersey when the train car he was in flipped over.

“My mother flew into me, and I literally had to catch her,” he said. “People were bleeding from their head. It was awful.”

President Barack Obama said he and first lady Michelle Obama were deeply saddened: “Along the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak is a way of life for many. From Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia to New York City and Boston, this is a tragedy that touches us all.”

Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania ordered flags across the state to half-staff.

IN-DEPTH

Hasani Gittens, Phil Helsel, M. Alex Johnson, Tom Winter, Shamar Walters, Tony Dokoupil, Ben Popken, Aliza Nadi and Jonathan Dienst of NBC News contributed to this report.

First published May 13th 2015, 10:27 am

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