Armed with flashlights, firefighters went from car to car early Wednesday morning, looking for passengers inside an Amtrak train that derailed and tipped over in Philadelphia — killing at least five.
Another 136 were taken to various hospitals, including six in critical condition, authorities said.
“It is an absolute, disastrous mess,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter of the crash site. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”
The Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 was traveling from Washington to New York when it derailed in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. The impact tore cars apart and left the engine a mangled mess.
The northeast corridor, which spans from Washington to Boston, is the busiest passenger line in the country, and the train was carrying 238 passengers and 5 crew members.
The cause wasn’t immediately known.
“We do not know what happened here. We do not know why it happened,” Nutter said. There was no indication the derailment was a result of an impact with another train, he said.
A train wreck. Cause unknown. Armed with only these bits of information, our intrepid media swung into action. A mere two hours after the crash Politico had this story up:
An Amtrak train from D.C. to New York City derailed Tuesday night in Philadelphia, killing at least five people and injuring dozens — on the eve of a House markup of a bill that would slash the passenger rail service’s budget.
The Philadelphia Inquirer said initial reports indicated that the train derailed as it was entering the curve, while social media reports suggested the Amtrak train may have hit a freight train.
The accident comes on the eve of a House Appropriations markup for a fiscal 2016 bill that funds, among other things, Amtrak. The version approved earlier by an appropriations subcommittee contains language that would slash Amtrak’s funding to $1.13 billion, less than the roughly $1.4 billion it typically receives annually.
Democrats had already been expected to take a run at boosting the bill’s funding for Amtrak, but the debate at Wednesday’s markup is sure to take on more urgency in light of the crash, pictures of which posted to Twitter show mangled train car debris strewn across a darkened field. It may also stoke the debate over delays in implementing an anti-collision technology known as Positive Train Control.
This year has seen a flurry of major passenger rail accidents, including a rush-hour collision between a commuter train and an SUV that killed six people in Valhalla, N.Y., a deadly train-truck crash in Oxnard, Calif., and an Amtrak crash with a tractor-trailer in North Carolina that injured dozens of people. Railroad fatalities have also been on an upswing: Last year’s preliminary total of 813 deaths was 20 percent higher than just three years ago, partly reversing a sharp decline since the early 1990s, according to FRA statistics.
Twitter ghouls were even faster:
I like trains. Once upon a time they dominated transportation in our country. But we need to get government out of the railroad business.
Cut Amtrak loose and let it fend for itself. If it goes out of business then that’s just the way it is. We’ll still have cargo trains for many years to come, but we shouldn’t be subsidizing forms of transportation that are not economically viable.
While we’re at it we can kill Jerry Brown’s high-speed rail boondoggle too.
But before we start politicizing tragedies we need to find out what happened first.