5 Killed In Amtrak Train Derailment In Philadelphia

May 13, 2015
Originally published on May 13, 2015 7:58 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Last night's Philadelphia train crash came on the spine of the East Coast. Amtrak connects capitals of the media, government and finance - Washington to New York to Boston and all the cities in between. It's a train line ridden by many of the country's elites. It's a line where the former director of the National Security Agency was once overheard making off-the-record phone calls to a reporter. And when the train crashed last night, the people on board who sent tweets about it included a former congressman. The train left Washington and made it through Philadelphia's 30th Street Station before it derailed on a curve. Some of the cars overturned. One car was impaled on a steel girder. Six people are known dead and 146 injured. Here's NPR's Jeff Brady.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: The accident happened just before 9:30 Tuesday evening. Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 had just left the Philadelphia station. Associated Press employee Paul Chung was on board.

PAUL CHUNG: Suddenly the train just starts shaking a lot, and then I think some people in the front were turning and seats were broken apart. Next thing, you know, I know we have to escape from the back.

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BRADY: I'm at the corner of Frankford and Sedgwick in Philadelphia and can't see the train specifically but a lot of police vans, fire trucks, a lot of people gathered around, and periodically we see people being carried away in stretchers. At a late-night news conference, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said that, at the time, not everyone had been accounted for.

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MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER: We will continue for some time out here with any continued search, but obviously at 1 o'clock in the morning in darkness that is a more difficult operation.

BRADY: Nutter said heavy equipment such as cranes will be brought in this morning. Along with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Nutter toured the crash site. He said all seven train cars and the engine were in disarray. Nutter says rail service on the heavily traveled route between Philadelphia and New York likely will be canceled for the rest of the week.

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NUTTER: I mean, I'm not an engineer, but, I mean, common sense says - I mean, you've got cars, you've got catenary, you've got track. I mean, it is completely wiped out down there.

BRADY: The accident happened at a place where the track makes a sharp turn. Mayor Nutter was asked if the train was traveling too fast.

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NUTTER: The only thing that I can tell you is the one obvious thing and the one known fact - there is a curve. We have no idea what kind of speed we're talking about, what else happened out there and I'm not going to speculate on it.

BRADY: The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railroad Administration both are investigating the accident. Since the train was traveling from Washington, D.C., to New York, many of the passengers likely don't live nearby. Amtrak set up a phone number to connect them with family and friends. Samantha Phillips is with the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management.

SAMANTHA PHILLIPS: We're working out of the city's emergency operations center to match all of that information against what we have with hospital records, Amtrak.

BRADY: Amtrak issued a statement saying, we are deeply saddened by the loss of life. The railroad says there were approximately 238 passengers and five crew members on board. Amtrak has not offered an explanation of what happened. The railroad says while service between Philadelphia and New York is suspended, most other routes in the region will operate today. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.