Investigators are trying to find out what caused a New York-bound Amtrak train to derail in Philadelphia, killing six, injuring scores and closing part of the busiest passenger rail corridor in the U.S.
Northeast Regional Train 188, which originated in Washington, went off the tracks about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. The crash sent more than 140 people to hospitals, the Associated Press reported.
An engine and seven cars careened off the tracks, according to Kevin Thompson, a spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration. Three cars were resting on their sides and one almost on its roof. One was perpendicular to the others.
The wreck turned a Philadelphia neighborhood into a search and rescue zone, illuminated by flashlights and spotlights as workers pulled the injured from cars and tried to determine whether other people remained trapped. Bloodied passengers could be seen hobbling from the wreckage.
The train, which derailed in the northeast section of the city, carried about 238 passengers and five crew, according to Amtrak. Mayor Michael Nutter confirmed the death toll at a news conference Tuesday night. A Temple University hospital spokesman said Wednesday morning a sixth person had died.
“It is an absolute, disastrous mess,” Nutter told reporters. “We do not know why this happened.”
Amtrak service between New York and Philadelphia is suspended, promising to send business travelers and commuters searching for other ways to traverse the East Coast.
Modified service will be provided on Wednesday between Washington and Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Philadelphia, and New York and Boston, according to an Amtrak statement. In addition, New Jersey Transit will honor Amtrak tickets between New York City and Trenton.
In Washington, Union Station was virtually empty Wednesday, although an Acela Express train bound for Philadelphia at 7 a.m. boarded on schedule.
Ridership in the Northeast Corridor on regional and Acela trains between Washington and Boston rose to 11.6 million in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, up 3.3 percent from the prior year, according to the railroad.
Tuesday’s accident was in an area called Frankford Junction that has a sweeping curve. A 1943 derailment of the Congressional Limited train, which killed 79, occurred nearby.
The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team to investigate the accident, the agency said on Twitter.
The Federal Railroad Administration sent a team of eight investigators and the agency’s acting administrator, Sarah Feinberg, according to an agency statement.
The derailment was far from Amtrak’s deadliest accident. In 1993, 47 people died and 103 were injured as rail cars careened off a bridge and into water near Mobile, Alabama.
Tuesday’s mishap in Philadelphia’s Frankford neighborhood is in an area filled with industrial warehouses, auto mechanics and body shops.
Michelle Premaza, 33, who lives a quarter-mile away, said she was in her house when the crash occurred. She said she saw and heard the impact.
“I seen a big flash and heard rolling thunder,” Premaza said. “It was crazy.”
Another resident, Leslie Painter, 49, said she saw buses carrying victims from the scene.
“This is scary,” Painter said. “I’ve lived here my entire life and there’s never been no accidents like this.”
Former U.S. Representative Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania was aboard the train when it crashed and helped passengers out of the wreckage, according to messages and photos he posted on Twitter.
The AP reported that one of its managers, Paul Cheung, who was on the train, said it started to slow just before the derailment.
“Then suddenly you could see everything starting to shake,” the news service quoted him saying. “You could see people’s stuff flying over me.”
With assistance from Romy Varghese in Philadelphia and David Lerman in Washington.
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