8 Dead, More Than 200 Injured Following Philadelphia Train Derailment

Last Updated May 18, 2015 @ 6:41 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Eight people are dead and more than 200 injured following the derailment of Amtrak train 188 in Philadelphia’s Frankford neighborhood late Tuesday night.

“It is an absolute disastrous mess,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said from the scene. “Never seen anything like this in my life and most personnel will say that as well.”

City officials confirm that all 243 individuals on the derailed train have been accounted for.

PHOTOS: Amtrak Train Derailment Scene

Amtrak says Northeast Regional Train 188, operating from Washington to New York, left Union Station in Washington, D.C. around 7 p.m., bound for Penn Station when it crashed just before 9:30 p.m. near the 2000 block of Wheatsheaf Lane.

Amtrak officials say there were approximately 238 passengers and five crew members on board when all seven cars derailed.

“This is the Amtrak family, we are very saddened by what has occurred,” Anthony Coscia of Amtrak said. Coscia stressed they will work closely with the NTSB and Mayor Michael Nutter’s office.

The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed that preliminary data showed the Amtrak train’s speed exceeded 100 mph prior to the derailment.

WATCH: NTSB Provides Update On Wednesday, May 13, 2015

VIEW: Philadelphia Train Derailment Complete Coverage

Nutter said the engineer on the train was injured in the crash, but survived and was believed to have given a statement to investigators.

As KYW Newsradio reports, during a news conference Wednesday, Nutter said while the cause of the crash is under investigation, the train’s black box was recovered and is being analyzed in Delaware.

On Thursday, as KYW Newsradio reports, National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt, who is leading the investigation, says in the wake of preliminary information that the train was running in excess of 100 miles an hour going into a curve, more data has been revealed in an on-board camera from the front the engine. Sumwalt says it captured the final fateful minutes before the engine and its seven cars went tumbling off the tracks.

“Thirty-one seconds before the end of the recording, the train speed was going through 90 miles an hour. Sixteen seconds before the end of the recording, the train speed was going through 100 miles per hour,” said Sumwalt.

Sumwalt wouldn’t say who or what was causing the train to accelerate, even though the speed at that area was only 50 miles an hour. The NTSB official also confirmed that the train engineer has agreed to be interviewed by federal investigators and will be asked to provide his own account of what happened the night of the derailment.

WATCH: NTSB Provides Update On Thursday, May 14, 2015 (Part 1)

WATCH: NTSB Provides Update On Thursday, May 14, 2015 (Part 2)

Earlier in the day Thursday, the eighth and final victim was recovered by firefighters from the heavily damaged first passenger car, putting the death toll at eight.

As KYW Newsradio reports, an Amtrak employee filed the first lawsuit against the company in connection with the crash on Thursday.

Exclusive video obtained by CBS 3 Eyewitness News shows the actual crash from a surveillance camera.

On Friday, The NTSB held another press conference to give an update on the investigation into the train derailment after they spoke with the engineer and conductors. FBI officials are now looking into whether something struck the train before it derailed.

WATCH: NTSB Provides Update On Friday, May 15, 2015 (Part 1)

WATCH: NTSB Provides Update On Friday, May 15, 2015 (Part 2)

The FBI examined train 188’s shattered windshield Monday, May 18.

The NTSB says it’s possible some other object may have hit the windshield, but that damage was not caused by a firearm.

Also on Monday, attorneys announced they’re filing federal lawsuits against Amtrak on behalf of six of the victims.

 

 

The Victims

Officials say at least 200 people were injured in the wreck — at least eight of those injuries were critical. Dozens underwent surgery for various injuries and were hospitalized at Temple University Hospital, Albert Einstein Medical Center, Aria Health Frankford Campus, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Hahnemann University Hospital.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those we lost last night, and to the many passengers who today begin their long road to recovery,” President Obama said in statement released late Wednesday morning. (See Full Statement)

As officials work to notify next of kin of the deceased, all of the eight victims have been identified.

According to the United States Naval Academy, a midshipman on leave and en-route to his home when the train derailed, was among the dead.

According to the Associated Press, Jim Gaines, an Associated Press video software architect was also among the deceased. Gaines, a 48-year-old father of two, had attended meetings in Washington and was returning home to Plainsboro, New Jersey, when the train derailed.

According to her family, Rachel Jacobs, the CEO of online learning startup ApprenNet based in Philadelphia, was among the deceased.  The 39-year-old Jacobs was in Philadelphia for a meeting Tuesday. She commuted to Philadelphia twice a week from her home in New York.

According to Wells Fargo, Abid Gilani, a member of Wells Fargo’s commercial real estate division, was among the deceased.

Also among the deceased was Derrick Griffith, dean of student affairs and enrollment management at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

Businessman Robert Gildersleeve was also among the victims. Gildersleeve was from Maryland and worked for Ecolab.

An Italian ambassador confirmed that Italian citizen Giuseppe Piras died in the train derailment.

A spokesman for the family of a New York City woman says she was one of the eight people killed. The family says 47-year-old Laura Finamore had been coming back to New York from a memorial service for a college friend’s mother.

Emergency Responders

Officials say the incident required a four-alarm response from the Philadelphia Fire Department with 33 apparatus on the scene, 120 firefighters, approximately 200 Philadelphia Police Department personnel and a joint show of support from the Department of Homeland Security, SEPTA and the Pennsylvania State Police.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf was also on scene within hours of the accident to show his support for the city and the commonwealth.

“This went to a level three mass casualty incident because of the number of personnel,” said Mayor Nutter.

Amtrak urges any individuals with questions about loved ones on train 188 to call Amtrak’s Incident Hotline at 800-523-9101. Officials asked that those who were on the train and are OK to call the Amtrak hotline as well – to report their status.

“We will do everything we can to assist families who had loved ones on that train,” said Nutter.

Passengers Share Their Stories

CBS 3 Eyewitness News spoke with a mother who was on board the train with her son when disaster struck.

“We were just on the train and all of a sudden it started to shake,” said Joan Helfman. “And we were in the front seat and this huge red suitcase just came flying at me.”

When asked what was going through her mind, Helfman said, “this is a nightmare and it can’t be happening.”

“I saw so many head injuries and bloody faces,” she said. “There was nothing I could do to help, except talk to the people.”

“I helped my mom get off. That was my first priority,” said her son, Max.

“Luckily I’m still here. I’m still walking,” he said. “I got really lucky, so I figured I would do my best to help because I saw everyone. I could see the blood on people’s faces.”

“I did my best to try to help people out of that car because it was smoking,” he explained.

“It kind of still feels like a dream, like how could this happen? You always like read about things or see things on the news like oh, a plane crashes or a train derails, but you never actually think it’s going to happen to you, and it did,” Max said.

Passenger Jeff Cutler told Eyewitness News’ Chris May, “We were going around the curve at some speed and the car went into what seemed like flight for a split second. Then it tipped over and hit with a thud.”

He added, ““I’m counting my blessings that I’m in one piece. I feel very sad for those who lost their lives. The randomness of this event crosses my mind. You think you’re safe on a train where things like this don’t happen.”

Former Congressman Patrick Murphy was also on the train, taking to Twitter within moments of the crash:

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) had been on the train earlier and exited in Wilmington and was not involved in the derailment, according to his office.

“I am grateful to be home safe and sound in Wilmington, and my heart goes out to all those on the train tonight. I hope all of those that are injured recover quickly, and I will keep them in my thoughts and prayers.”

American Red Cross Response

The American Red Cross had opened a temporary reception center for victims and their family members at Webster Elementary School — located on 3400 Frankford Avenue.

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday that reception center was located to 12th and Market Streets in Center City.

Amtrak urges any individuals with questions about loved ones on train 188 to call Amtrak’s Incident Hotline at 800-523-9101. Passengers who were on the train and escaped injury were also urged to call the Amtrak hotline and report their status.

Train Derailment Impacts Area Travel

Amtrak service resumed between Philadelphia and New York Monday morning.  Service had been suspended for almost a week following the deadly train derailment.

Passengers with travel plans can confirm their train’s status, change their plans or review refund information using a range of tools – including Amtrak.com, smartphone apps or by calling 800-USA-RAIL.

SEPTA’s Chestnut Hill West Service was also temporarily suspended following the derailment — it resumed at about 5 a.m. Wednesday. Trenton Service was suspended for almost a week and resumed Monday morning.

For more information, visit http://septa.org/.

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For the latest on this story, stay with CBS 3 Eyewitness News, listen to KYW Newsradio and get updates anytime right here on CBSPhilly.

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