Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 derailed in Philadelphia on Tuesday, May 15, 2015, killing eight people and injuring 200.
The train was in Philadelphia, making a sharp turn around a curve when it derailed. It is not fully determined yet on how this occurred, but there are many key aspects that investigators are taking into consideration.
“After this happened, I don’t think I feel safe going on Amtrak trains. I think I will only feel safe if they install a safety system to prevent crashes like this,” said freshman Amanda Laezza.
The train sped up as it approached the curve. Investigators are looking at a “good quality video” that shows the train speeding up, leading to the derailment.
Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board said that 65 seconds before the end of the recording, the train’s speed went above 70 miles per hour, then steadily increased.
Sumwalt said that the initial data show the train barreling into a curve at about 106 mph, more than twice the 50 mph speed limit for the curve, and above the 80 mph limit right before it.
“The train was going way too fast. It was over double the speed limit. It most likely felt crazy for the people in the train, and I wonder why the engineer would make it go that fast,” said freshman Ariana Berta.
Engineer Brandon Bostian said he did not remember pulling the emergency brake. Sumwalt said he did “just moments” before the derailment.
Bostian submitted to a blood test and his lawyer said there was “no drinking, no drugs, no medical conditions. Nothing.”
Philadelphia Major Michael Nutter called the engineer’s driving “reckless,” adding that “there’s no way in the world he should have been going that fast into the curve.”
Sumwalt quickly shot down the major comments by saying, “You’re not going to hear the NTSB making comments like that. We want to get the facts before we start making judgments.”
One of the three conductors say the train was struck by an object. One conductor said she heard the radio transmitted made by Bostian and the engineer of a Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority train.
“She recalled that the SEPTA engineer had reported to the train dispatcher that he had either been hit by a rock or shot at, and the SEPTA engineer said that he had a broken windshield, and he placed his train into emergency stop,” Sumwalt said. “She also believed that she heard (the Amtrak) engineer say something about his train being struck by something.”
The windshield was shattered in the crash.
“I don’t think that the train was hit by an object because all the conductors didn’t confirm it. Also, the windshield may have just shattered when it derailed, not because it was hit by a flying object before the derailment,” said freshman AJ Murray.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, this was Amtrak’s ninth derailment this year. There were 35 derailments nationwide on main railways in January 2014 alone.
Many sources noted that this stretch did not have an automated speed control system called positive train control that could have overridden human errors and slowed the train down.
In 2008, Congress ordered the nation’s railroads to adopt positive train control by December 2015, but it is looking unlikely that will happen.
Amtrak spent the weekend installing new speed controls on the section of track where its passenger trains derailed. The installation of the Automatic Train Control (ATC) system slows speeding trains, following an order by the Federal Railroad Administration.
“It is sad how they had to wait after a crash happened for them to install an advanced safety system. The government should have required the installation before eight people died and 200 people were injured,” said freshman Fritz Fraje.
Amtrak Northeast Corridor runs between Washington and Boston. It is North America’s busiest railroad with 11.6 million riders in fiscal year 2014.
Every day, trains reach speeds between 125 mph and 150 mph, and carry government officials, college students, people getting away for the weekend and corporate commuters along 363 miles of track.
Train 188 was on its way from Washington to New York, carrying 238 passengers and five crew members when it derailed Tuesday night.
The victims include:
Laura Finamore died at the age of 47. She was a graduate of George Washington University and a managing director at Cushman & Wakefield.
Giuseppe Piras died at the age of 41. He was a wine and oil merchant who was visiting the US on business. He took the train after missing a plane. He was talking to his father before boarding and since he was in a hurry, told him that he would call him back.
Justin Zemser died at the age of 20. He was a US Naval Academy Midshipman, and hoped to become a Navy Seal. Zemser was very talented, especially at football. About 160 midshipmen from the Naval Academy 17th Company Sprint football team and Jewish Midshipman Club attended services for Zemser on Friday in Hewlett, New York.
Jim Gaines died at the age of 48. He worked for the Associated Press and was a father of two. He had been attending meetings in Washington and was returning home to Plainsboro, New Jersey.
Wells Fargo executive Abid Gilani also died in the derailment. He was senior vice president of its hospitality finance group and was a valued member of the division.
Rachel Jacobs died at the age of 39. She was the chief executive of small tech company ApprenNet and commuted from her New York City home to the company office in Philadelphia. She is survived by her husband and two-year-old son. She also is the founder of an organization called Detroit Nation.
Derrick Griffith was a dean of student affairs for City University of New York Medgar Evers College, and the founding director of CUNY Prep in New York. His son is one of the first people to sue Amtrak.
Bob Gildersleeve was a businessman who has been missing since Tuesday, but was soon confirmed dead. He was an executive at Ecolab, a St. Paul, Minnesota-based chemical company. The father of two, who lived in Maryland, had been going to New York on business.
Amtrak trains resumed service on Monday, May 18, 2015.
How do you think the derailment happened?