At least 5 dead, 65 hospitalized in Amtrak train derailment

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015
At least 5 dead, 65 hospitalized in Amtrak train derailment
At least five people are dead after an Amtrak train derailed in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia.

FRANKFORD -- At least five people are dead after an Amtrak train derailed in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia.

Mayor Michael Nutter, who confirmed the deaths, said the scene was horrific and not all of the more than 240 people on the train had been accounted for.

"It is an absolute disastrous mess. Never seen anything like this in my life," Nutter said during a press conference late Tuesday night along with Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

There were approximately 238 passengers and 5 crew members on board when the train derailed around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Officials say 65 people were hospitalized and transported to Temple University Hospital, Area Health Torresdale, Jefferson University Hospital, Hahnemann University Hospital, and Einstein Medical Center. Six were critically injured.

15 SEPTA buses were sent in to aid the victims.

Nutter said all seven train cars, including the engine, were in "various stages of disarray." He said there were cars that were "completely overturned, on their side, ripped apart."

"It is a devastating scene down there," he said. "We walked the entire length of the train area, and the engine completely separated from the rest of the train, and one of the cars is perpendicular to the rest of the cars. It's unbelievable."

The cause of the derailment was unknown, but Amtrak said it was investigating and was trucking in portable lights to illuminate the scene overnight as workers examined the wreckage.

"We do not know what happened here. We do not know why this happened," Nutter said.

Train 188, a Northeast Regional, had left Washington, D.C. The front of the train was going into a turn when it started to shake before coming to a sudden stop.

An Associated Press manager, Paul Cheung, was on the train and said he was watching Netflix when "the train started to decelerate, like someone had slammed the brake."

"Then suddenly you could see everything starting to shake," he said. "You could see people's stuff flying over me."

VIDEO: Mayor Nutter gives update on train derailment

Cheung said another passenger urged him to escape from the back of his car, which he did. He said he saw passengers trying to escape through the windows of cars tipped on their side.

"The front of the train is really mangled," he said. "It's a complete wreck. The whole thing is like a pile of metal."

Another passenger, Daniel Wetrin, was among more than a dozen people taken to a nearby elementary school afterward.

"I think the fact that I walked off (the train) kind of made it even more surreal because a lot of people didn't walk off," he said. "I walked off as if, like, I was in a movie. There were people standing around, people with bloody faces. There were people, chairs, tables mangled about in the compartment ... power cables all buckled down as you stepped off the train."

"Basically the train tilted over and rolled," one passenger told Action News.

The area where the derailment occurred near Frankford Avenue and Wheatsheaf Lane has a big curve. It's not far from where one of the nation's deadliest train accidents occurred: the 1943 derailment of The Congressional Limited, from Washington to New York, which killed 79 people.

Police swarming around Tuesday's derailment site, in Port Richmond, a working-class area, told people to get back, away from the train. They pleaded with curious onlookers: "Do NOT go to scene of derailment. Please allow 1st responders room to work."

Roads all around the crash site were blocked off. Waves of firefighters continuing toward the train cars, taking people out.

Several injured people, including one man complaining of neck pain, were rolled away on stretchers. Others wobbled while walking away or were put on city buses. An elderly woman was given oxygen.

Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy was on the train and said he helped people. He tweeted photos of firefighters helping other people in the wreckage.

"It was obviously a lot of mayhem People were pretty banged up, a lot of blood, a lot of bleeding," Murphy said on Action News at 11.

Local music producer Yameen was also aboard the train and recorded a record in progress.

Amtrak said rail service on the busy Northeast Corridor between New York and Philadelphia had been stopped.

SEPTA says a number of its route will be affected due to the derailment. The latest information can be found on

Anyone with family who was on the train should call the Amtrak hotline is 1-800-523-9101.

Webster Elementary School is being opened at 3400 Frankford Avenue for many of the passengers.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was gathering information about the derailment. It said it was launching an investigative team, which would arrive at the site Wednesday morning.

Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer called it a level 3 mass casualty incident.

"I've never seen anything so devastating. They are in pretty bad shape. They have completely derailed from the track," Sawyer said.

33 fire apparatus, 122 personnel, and 18 medic units were brought on scene.

Area resident David Hernandez, whose home is close to the tracks, heard the derailment.

"It sounded like a bunch of shopping carts crashing into each other," he said.

The crashing sound lasted a few seconds, he said, and then there was chaos and screaming.

Gov. Tom Wolf, who was in touch with the mayor and other state and local officials about the derailment, thanked the first responders for "their brave and quick action."

"My thoughts and prayers are with all of those impacted by tonight's train derailment," he said in a statement. "For those who lost their lives, those who were injured, and the families of all involved, this situation is devastating."

Stay with for updates on this developing story.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.