On Tuesday evening, an Amtrak train derailed on the way from Washington to New York on one of the country’s most traveled stretches of passenger rail. Train 188 was carrying more than 240 passengers at the time of the incident—more than 140 of them were injured and 6 were killed from the derailing. Most people suffered from fractures and burns; however, at least eight of those injured were listed in critical condition. Rescue workers are also continuing their search as not all passengers have been accounted for as of Wednesday morning.
Following the incident, all seven cars on the train were impacted with several either overturned, on their side, or completely ripped apart. Eyewitnesses stated they heard a “big bang” before the derailment while passengers said that they felt the train begin to decelerate “like someone had slammed the brake” before everything began to shake. Many passengers attempted to escape by going through windows or through the back of the cars.
"I think the fact that I walked off kind of made it even more surreal because a lot of people didn't walk off," said Daniel Wetrin, one of the passengers aboard the train. "I walked off as if, like, I was in a movie. There were people standing around, people with bloody faces. There were people, chairs, tables mangled about in the compartment ... power cables all buckled down as you stepped off the train."
The incident occurred shortly after the train had left the main station on a curve of track near the Port Richmond section. This is the same curve of track where one of our nation’s deadliest train accidents occurred more than seven decades ago, killing 79 passengers and injuring 117. The Frankford Junction track wreck was eventually blamed on an overheated journal box that caused a seized and snapped axle.
The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team of investigators to the scene of the accident on Wednesday morning and officials from the Department of Transportation are already onsite; according to the Federal Railroad Administration, they would be dispatching at least eight investigators of their own. Currently, it is unclear what caused the accident, although law enforcement stated that speed was being considered. The crash scene was near a section of track where a straight section with a 70 mph speed limit went into a 50 mph curve. Officials, however, have made it clear that it is too early to know what played a factor in the incident.
"It is a devastating scene," said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. "Never seen anything like this in my life. We walked the entire length of the train area. The engine [is] completely separated from the rest of the train and one of the cars is perpendicular to the rest of the cars. It's unbelievable."