(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – May 12, 2015)
Very few of the 238 passengers and five crew members aboard escaped death or injury Tuesday night as a New York-bound Amtrak train reportedly took a 50 mph curve in the Philadelphia, PA industrial area known as Frankford Junction, at an Associated Press-estimated 106 mph at about 9:00 P.M., derailed all but one of the train’s six passenger cars and its locomotive, and killed seven passengers and injured as many as 200, at least 10 seriously.
Analysis of video taken by a trackside camera conducted by AP experts showing that the train was traveling at twice its allowable track speed was basically supported by government agency officials who said the train’s speed was over 100 mph. The track preceding the curve is rated for 70 mph train speeds, still well below the train’s speed as it left the rails.
The locomotive became detached from its cars and remained on its wheels, although derailed, while two cars were on their sides, one was leaning slightly, and two others were derailed but relatively upright. The locomotive engineer, whose name was not released, was later seen leaving a Philadelphia Police Precinct Headquarters in the company of an attorney.
The location was near the site where the Congressional Limited passenger train derailed on a Labor Day Weekend September 6, 1943, killing 79 people in a wreck blamed on an overheated friction journal (a rail technology long-since abandoned in favor of ball-bearing journals which resist such problems). It is an area of industrial warehouses bordering the Delaware River, which forms part of the border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Among the dead were an award-winning AP executive and a U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman, while several other news media personnel and a current and a retired U.S. Members of Congress were also on board, but not believed to have been among the injured.
Washington, DC-originating train 188 is a popular ride for passengers traveling through the nation’s northeast corridor, known to be the busiest rail route in the USA. The wreck created transportation chaos that will undoubtedly continue through the weekend for countless passengers who regularly travel or get from home to work and back via rail.
The National Transportation Safety Board immediately dispatched its “GO” team to launch an investigation into the tragedy.