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More Than 200 Injured After Amtrak Train Derails In Philadelphia


Federal investigators say an Amtrak train was going more than 100 miles an hour as it barreled into a curve in Philadelphia last night. At least seven people were killed. Hundreds more were injured. The train was traveling from Washington to New York City. As NPR's Joel Rose reports, investigators are still combing through the scene of the accident.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Amtrak Train 188 derailed just before a bend in the track in North Philadelphia. Journalist Caleb Bonham was on board. He says the ride went from peaceful to incredibly violent in an instant.

CALEB BONHAM: I was in my chair, had my laptop next to me. Everything started shaking. And within - it was the blink of an eye - I was on the other side of the train. Everything had gone black.

ROSE: Bonham was one of about 240 people on board when the train derailed.

BONHAM: People started to collect themselves, and it was very difficult to move around the train because all the seats had disconnected from the frames. And there was exposed really sharp metal that was all over the place.

ROSE: Today, the sun rose in North Philadelphia on a gruesome scene. Train cars seemingly tossed across the track at odd angles - several appeared to be mangled and crushed. Heavy construction trucks squeezed through narrow streets of row houses to get to the accident site. Evette Perez and Audaline Astacio live across the street on Frankford Avenue.

EVETTE PEREZ: I heard the real boom. I thought it was a car crash.

AUDALINE ASTACIO: Yeah, it was loud; almost my house was shaking when that happened.

ROSE: Astacio says she looked out her window last night and saw flames and white smoke shooting up in the air. Down the street, Lori Dee Patterson says she heard a loud sound, too.

LORI DEE PATTERSON: Next thing I know, there's police cars running up the street. There's ambulances running up the street. And we're like, oh, my God, what's going on?

ROSE: This is one of the busiest passenger rail corridors in the country - a major artery connecting New York City to Philadelphia, Washington and points south. But no trains were getting through today as local and federal investigators combed through the wreckage. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter says seven people died in the accident.


MICHAEL NUTTER: What we have to stay focused on - every person out here is making sure that we are searching every car, every inch, every thousands of square feet to find or locate individuals who may have been on that train.

ROSE: More than a hundred miles per hour - that's how fast the train was traveling before the derailment, according to investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board. The official speed limit on the curved stretch of track where the train derailed is just half that. NTSB member Robert Sumwalt says investigators are beginning to recover information on speed and other factors from the event data recorders on the train.


ROBERT SUMWALT: The train was traveling at approximately 106 mile per hour. Three seconds later, when the data to the recorder's terminated, the train speed was 102 miles per hour.

ROSE: That helps explain what happened last night, but Robert Sumwalt says investigators are also interested in why the train derailed. So they'll be speaking to the train's crew, including the engineer in the days ahead.


SUMWALT: We plan to interview the train crew and other personnel. We would like to interview passengers of the train. We'll be testing the signal system - the train control signals. We'll be testing the braking system.

ROSE: Sumwalt says investigators could be onsite for as much as a week. Amtrak says the track between Philadelphia and New York will likely remain closed tomorrow as the investigation continues. Joel Rose, NPR News, Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.
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