We’ve been closely following the coverage of the Amtrak derailment since the news broke that there was a railroad accident in Philadelphia. Our hearts go out to the crew, passengers and their families right now. We’ve represented hundreds of railroad workers over the course of our legal careers and have spoken to a number of our contacts in this area about what is happening.
HERE’S WHAT WE KNOW
Thursday (May 21) updates:
The NTSB has now posted information about its investigation online. This page will be updated with additional information as the investigation proceeds. You can find it at: http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/Pages/2015_philadelphia_pa.aspx
Monday (May 18) updates:
Four passengers filed lawsuits against Amtrak in Federal Court today. They are the first by non-employee passengers since the May 12th crash.
On Saturday, the Federal Railroad Administration instructed Amtrak to take additional safety measures. Among them is the installment of Automatic Train Control (a limited version of Positive Train Control that informs speeding engineers and then automatically applies the brakes if they do not). ATC was installed on the southbound tracks but not the northbound tracks. The FRA also told Amtrak to improve signage concerning speed limits and study the safety of all curves on the NEC.
The first lawsuit has been filed by an Amtrak employee that was riding the train while off-duty.
The media is now reporting eight casualties. At least 47 are still in the hospital and eight are in critical condition.
All passengers and crew have now been accounted for, according to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
Wednesday evening updates:
The names of the victims and those still missing are slowly becoming public. There are no appropriate words.
The train was reportedly going 106 miles per hour into the 50 mph section of the curve. The NTSB has said that Positive Train Control could have slowed the train if it had been installed on that section of the track. It hasn’t been implemented on the Northeast Corridor even though the deadline imposed by Congress is at the end of the year.
There’s an intense debate going on about whether Amtrak needs to add seat belts to its trains.
The House Appropriations Committee voted to cut Amtrak’s budget from $1.4 billion to $1.13 billion today.
Wednesday morning update:
There’s now six reported dead and at least 146 injuries from the Amtrak accident. A Department of Transportation representative says that the engine and all seven cars derailed. The train was carrying 238 passengers and five crew. Authorities have not yet accounted for everyone on board. The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that additional fatalities may be discovered when rescue workers lift one of the derailed passenger cars currently on its side.
The area of the track is known as Frankford Junction. It is a large curve after an almost 2 mile straight away from 30th Street Station on the start of the journey toward New York City. There are speed restrictions for trains on the curve with a 70 mph limit on trains moving through Philadelphia County. There were early reports that the train may have collided with a freight train moving in the opposite direction but Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said last night that there was no indication another train was involved.
Temple Hospital received a total of 54 patients, eight of whom were in critical condition.
Mayor Nutter is scheduled to provide another update at 11 AM EST.
The NTSB is on the scene. We’ve heard that they are looking at issues related to the operation of the train but that maintenance of the track is also on their radar. They have the event recorder and took it out of state to analyze it. The Federal Railroad Administration is also sending at least eight investigators. The FBI has found no indication of terrorism.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has reported that this is the deadliest crash on the Northeast Corridor, America’s busiest railroad line, since 1987 when an Amtrak collision with a freight train killed 16 near Baltimore.
Railroad traffic between New York City and Philadelphia is still shut down.
The House Appropriations Committee is meeting today to discuss the transportation bill which includes funding to Amtrak. The bill would reportedly cut funding from $1.4 billion to $1.13 billion.
From last night:
Our hearts go out to all of the victims of the Amtrak train derailment here in Philadelphia tonight. For passenger information, call the Amtrak Hotline at 1-800-523-9101. We’ve been following the coverage for the past three hours and here is what we know:
At around 9:30 pm on May 12th, an Amtrak train derailed near the intersection of Frankford Ave. and Wheatsheaf Lane northeast of Center City, Philadelphia in Port Richmond. Train 188 was headed from Washington D.C. to New York City and had just completed a stop at 30th Street Station.
The engine and six cars derailed.
There are 5 reported fatalities, six critical injuries transported to local hospitals and an estimated 50 or so other injured passengers.
It was declared a level 3 mass casualty emergency. Philadelphia Mayor Nutter called it unlike anything he had ever seen in his life. The response involved 120 fire professionals, 200 police officers and many others including SEPTA, Homeland Security, etc.
NTSB is headed to the scene to investigate. They are supposed to be there early in the morning.
There’s about 25 patients at Frankford Hospital mainly from the first three cars of the train. They have numerous injuries including concussions, broken bones, etc.
Webster Elementary School in Port Richmond was used as a staging and assessment area for less critical passengers. Some of these individuals gave statements to police about what happened prior to going to medical facilities for treatment.
There have been 18 train accidents in Pennsylvania this year. 11 involved train derailments but this is the first that has led to a fatality.
In 1943, there was an Amtrak derailment near the location of tonight’s accident over Labor Day weekend that killed 79 and injured 117 others.
Rail service to New York City is currently suspended.
We’ll update more in the morning.
About Jim McEldrew:
Jim McEldrew is a former President of the Rail Labor Attorneys and a former President of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association. He has represented hundreds of injured railroad workers in litigation under the FELA. To reach Jim, call 1-800-590-4116.