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New Jersey Train Crash Injures Over 100

By Frank McGurty and Amy Tennery

HOBOKEN, N.J., Sept 29 (Reuters) – Three people were killed and more than 100 injured, some critically, when a commuter train derailed and plowed through Hoboken station in New Jersey during the morning rush hour on Thursday, U.S. media and a transit official said.

Citing medical officials, U.S. media reports said three people were killed. Well over 100 people were hurt, many of them critically, Jennifer Nelson, a spokeswoman for train operator New Jersey Transit, told reporters at the scene. She did not confirm any fatalities.

Dramatic pictures posted by commuters showed a train carriage that appeared to have smashed right through the station concourse, collapsing a section of the roof, scattering debris and wreckage and causing devastation.

ABC News said on its website that New Jersey Transit was reporting many passengers were trapped. Fox News said the engineer, or train driver, had to be extricated from the front car.

Hoboken lies on the west bank of the Hudson River across from New York City. Its station, one of the busiest in the metropolitan area, is used by many commuters traveling into Manhattan from New Jersey and further afield.

There was no word yet on what caused the crash. Federal investigators were en route to the scene.

Linda Albelli, 62, said she was sitting in her seat in one of the rear cars when the train approached the station. She said she knew something was wrong a moment before the impact.

“I thought to myself, ‘Oh my god, he’s not slowing up, and this is where we’re usually stop,'” Albelli said. “‘We’re going too fast,’ and with that there was this tremendous crash.”

Passengers helped each other off the train and onto the platform. They ultimately had to cross the tracks to get to safety, she said: “When we got on the platform there was nowhere to go. The ceiling had come down.”

The injured sat on benches in the station while they waited for first responders, said Albelli, who lives in Closter, New Jersey. She did not know how many had been hurt.

“There was just so much, a lot of people in need of attention,” she said. “There were a lot of people who were really hurt.”

The train had about five or six carriages and was not full because many passengers exit at Secaucus, Albelli said.

‘HARD TO BELIEVE’

New Jersey Transit employee Michael Larson talked to reporters outside the station looking shocked and with blood from one of the injured passengers on the knee of his pants.

“It’s hard to believe. I have no idea what caused it,” Larson said. “The whole roof was caved in.”

A major transit hub, the historic green-roofed Hoboken Station is served by NJ Transit commuter trains connecting much of New Jersey with the country’s largest city, as well as PATH, a more local subway-like service going into Manhattan, a local light rail service and ferry service to New York.

The train was on the Pascack Valley line, which goes through Northern Bergen County, and had originated at Spring Valley, according to media reports. NBC News said it was on track five when it struck the Hoboken terminal building.

Jaimie Weatherhead-Saul, a passenger on train, said the people sitting in front of him were badly injured.

“Once we got off we noticed people were stuck and had to come out windows. And the conductor came off and he was completely bloodied,” Weatherhead-Saul said.

The Federal Railroad Administration said its investigators were en route to the scene. The National Transportation Safety Board said it would send its major incidents team to investigate.

In May 2011, a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey train crashed at the same Hoboken station, injuring more than 30 people when it plowed into a bumping post at the end of the track. An NTSB investigation determined excessive speed was the main cause of the accident.

The worst passenger train crash in recent years in the United States was the crash of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia in May, 2015 that killed eight passengers and injured 186.

(Additional reporting by Laila Kearney and David Ingram in New York, and Susan Heavey and Tim Ahmann in Washington; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Photo: Onlookers view a New Jersey Transit train that derailed and crashed through the station in Hoboken, New Jersey, U.S. in this picture courtesy of Chris Lantero taken September 29, 2016. Courtesy of Chris Lantero via REUTERS

NTSB: Engineer Was Not Talking, Texting When Amtrak Train Derailed

By Paul Nussbaum, The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)

PHILADELPHIA — The engineer of Amtrak Train 188 was not talking or texting on his cellphone before the train’s deadly derailment in Philadelphia on May 12, the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday.

The finding supported statements by the lawyer for engineer Brandon Bostian, 32, that the engineer’s cellphone was turned off and stowed in his bag during the trip from Washington, D.C., to New York.

However, NTSB vice chair Tho “Bella” Dinh-Zarr told a Senate committee Wednesday that investigators have not determined if the engineer was using an app or the phone for other purposes.

There was “no talking, texting or data usage involved,” said Dinh-Zarr. But, she added, “there are 400,000 pieces of data involved in the analysis. Because of the extent of that, things like use of an app or other use of the phone has not been determined. We are working with the records.”

“To determine whether the phone was in ‘airplane mode’ or was powered off, investigators in the NTSB laboratory in Washington have been examining the phone’s operating system, which contains more than 400,000 files of metadata,” the agency said in its statement Wednesday. “Investigators are obtaining a phone identical to the engineer’s phone as an exemplar model and will be running tests to validate the data.”

The NTSB’s determination heightened the mystery surrounding the cause of the accident: Why was the train traveling more than 100 miles per hour as it entered a curve where the speed limit was 50 miles per hour?

Eight people were killed and more than 200 injured in the crash.

Some engineers have speculated that Bostian may have lost track of his location, mistakenly believing he had already passed the Frankford Junction curve and was clear to open the throttle on the way to New York.

“Everybody at some point in their career has done that,” said one engineer, referring to the possibility of losing one’s place on a route. He spoke on the condition that he would not be named.

Engineers are required to memorize their routes and the speed limits and other standards, aided by signals in the locomotive cab and on the side of the track.

Speed limit signs often are not posted.

After the Train 188 wreck, the Federal Railroad Administration ordered Amtrak to post speed limit signs throughout the Northeast Corridor within 30 days, “with particular emphasis on additional signage at the curve locations” with sharp speed reductions, like Frankford Junction.

The head of the engineers’ union told a congressional committee last week that the lack of speed limit signs could prove to be a significant lapse.

“If we eventually learn that, for some reason, the engineer of Amtrak 188 became temporarily confused as to his location, it may be reasonable to conclude that the simple use of speed signs in the approach to the curve, as a reminder, may have prevented this accident,” said Dennis Pierce, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

“That would raise a question whether the decision not to post such signs was a human error that contributed to the accident.”

The NTSB said Wednesday that “analysis of the phone records does not indicate that any calls, texts, or data usage occurred during the time the engineer was operating the train.”

“Amtrak’s records confirm that the engineer did not access the train’s Wi-Fi system while he was operating the locomotive,” the report said.

The NTSB said the analysis of the engineer’s phone records was “more complicated than anticipated because the phone carrier has multiple systems that log different types of phone activity, some of which are based in different time zones.

“Investigators worked with the phone carrier to validate the time-stamps in several sets of records with activity from multiple time zones to correlate them all to the time zone in which the accident occurred,” the agency said.

(Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Jonathan Tamari contributed to this report.)

(c)2015 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Investigators examine the train derailment site on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, after a northbound Amtrak train crashed in the Port Richmond area of Philadelphia Tuesday night. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

Full Rail Service Resumes At Site Of Fatal Amtrak Crash

By Katherine Skiba, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Full Amtrak service has resumed in the nation’s busy Northeast rail corridor, almost a week after a derailment in Philadelphia killed eight passengers and injured more than 200.

Since the May 12 crash of an Amtrak train headed from Washington to New York City, Amtrak officials “have been working around the clock” to make repairs that would allow full service to resume through Philadelphia, Amtrak President and Chief Executive Joe Boardman said Sunday in a statement.

The possibility that a rock or other projectile hit Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 moments before it derailed is one of many that safety officials are exploring as they seek a cause for the deadly accident, a top federal official said Sunday.

The FBI will be at the accident scene Monday to examine the wreckage and try to determine what may have hit the train, said Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board.

So far, officials have interviewed dispatchers and listened to dispatch tapes and have “heard no communication at all from the Amtrak engineer to the dispatch center to say that something had struck his train,” Sumwalt said as he made the rounds of Sunday morning news programs. Nor did the engineer of a nearby commuter train that was struck recall any conversation between the crew of his train and Amtrak 188, he added.

“We’re just in the fact-finding stage of the investigation,” he said. “We’re just slowly starting to gather the information and then slowly start ruling things out.”

Sumwalt said crew members on the commuter train operated by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority reported being hit by a projectile. The NTSB does not know how many other trains had been struck, he said.

Sumwalt, a former airline pilot, said the investigation would have been “significantly” helped if the Amtrak train had been equipped with inward-facing video cameras.

Sumwalt urged that advanced technology, known as positive train control, be implemented soon to avoid future derailments. He called it “very troubling” that positive train control might not be installed on passenger railways until year’s end.

Positive train control utilizes GPS technology to monitor a train’s location and can enforce speed limits.

“We have seen countless accidents over the years that could have been prevented had positive train control been implemented,” Sumwalt said.

After the crash of a Metrolink commuter train in Southern California seven years ago, Congress ordered the nation’s rail operators to install positive train control by the end of this year. Progress toward that goal has been slow.

Amtrak is closer to achieving the goal than many other railroads, with the train controls installed on parts of the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, but not in the section where the derailment happened. Most of the nation’s freight lines have lagged behind, and several have asked Congress for an extension of the deadline.

Federal regulators have ordered Amtrak to install a less advanced system, known as automatic train control, before reopening the line through the area where the derailment took place. Amtrak officials have said they will do so.

(Staff writer Matt Pearce in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)

(c)2015 Tribune Co., Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: John H Gray via Flickr

Derailed Train Was Speeding, Officials Say

By Joseph A. Gambardello and Anthony R. Wood, The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)

PHILADELPHIA — Seven deaths were confirmed Wednesday and the toll was almost certain to go higher in the derailment of an Amtrak train that officials said was traveling at double the speed limit as it approached a curve at Frankford Junction in Philadelphia.

The search for more bodies was continuing, Mayor Michael Nutter said at a midafternoon briefing at the site. More than 200 people were injured, and at least eight people remained in critical condition.

The National Transportation Safety Board said that the train was moving at 100 mph when it jumped the tracks at a sharp curve where several lines merge, toppling all seven cars.

Nutter said President Barack Obama had contacted him to pledge the federal government’s “full support.” In a statement, Obama commended the first responders and medical personnel as well as uninjured passengers who assisted the injured.

“Along the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak is a way of life for many,” he said. “From Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia to New York City and Boston, this is a tragedy that touches us all.”

The incident marked the deadliest crash on the Northeast Corridor since 16 people were killed when an Amtrak train collided with a pair of Conrail engines near Baltimore in 1987.

NTSB Board member Robert Sumwalt said the agency would hold a briefing later Wednesday.

Investigators are going to focus on the speed of the train, the condition of the track, possible mechanical problems or defects with the train and actions of the crew, among other things, Sumwalt said.

The curve at Frankford Junction is not yet equipped with a system called Positive Train Control that would automatically slow a speeding train.

Nutter said the train’s event recorders had been recovered and were being examined at an Amtrak facility in Delaware.

Sumwalt said the train also was equipped with a forward looking video camera and that would be part of the investigation.

“We have not experienced anything like this in modern times,” Nutter said.

The train’s engineer and conductor survived the crash.

The engineer, who has not been identified, declined to give a statement to police investigators and left the East Detectives Division with an attorney, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said Wednesday.

The conductor, also unidentified, was at Einstein Hospital with a skull fracture, Ramsey said.

Thousands of commuters in the meantime scrambled to find alternate ways to work as the derailment has halted Amtrak service between New York and Philadelphia as well as service on SEPTA’s Trenton line. SEPTA said the Trenton line could remain out of operation for the remainder of the workweek.

Amtrak Train 188, was bound to New York from Washington with 238 passengers and five crew members aboard when the incident occurred jumped the tracks just before 9:30 p.m. on a curve in the Northeast Corridor’s Frankford Junction.

The area is normally under a speed restriction, requiring trains to slow down as they approach.

In the moments after the derailment, scores of emergency personnel swarmed over the toppled train cars, trying to reach the dazed, the injured, the dying.

Some people were reported trapped in the train, and crews cut into the cars to free the injured.

There is no official word yet on the identities of passengers who are unaccounted for, but a family friend said Rachel Jacobs, the CEO of an online learning start-up based in Philadelphia, was on the train and has been reported missing.

The U.S. Naval Academy said a midshipman on leave was among the dead. His family identified him as Justin Zemser, a 20-year-old from Rockaway Beach in Queens, who was in his second year at the Academy. In a statement, his parents said: “This tragedy has shocked us in the worst way and we wish to spend this time grieving with our close family and friends.”

The Associated Press said one of the victims was an AP employee. It said Jim Gaines, 48, a father of two, had attended meetings in Washington and was returning home to Plainsboro, N.J., when the train derailed.

Herbert Cushing, Temple’s chief medical officer, said the hospital had received a total of 54 patients, 25 of whom remained hospitalized Wednesday.

“The patients who were awake and could talk to me were folks that were in the last two cars,” Cushing said. Doctor said patients described the crash scene as chaotic. “The folks I talked to were injured because people fell on them or things fell on them.”

He said the patients included visitors from Spain, India, and Albania who “just happened to be here on that train.”

Samantha Phillips, the city’s emergency management director, said more than 200 people were taken to hospitals following the derailment.

Gov. Tom Wolf, who visited the scene overnight, said later that the trains derailed near a row of tanker cars “and that is a cause of additional concern.”

“The crash site was awful, heartrending,” he said.

Wolf ordered all Pennsylvania flags in the Capitol Complex in Harrisburg and at state offices throughout Pennsylvania facilities statewide to fly at half-staff until sundown Sunday to honor the victims of the derailment.

Among the injured was Caleb Bonham, 28, who was treated at Aria Health’s hospital in Torresdale and released.

He was in the last car of the train, listening to music on his iPod when he noticed his computer start shaking. Suddenly “everything went black,” he said.

“Next thing you know, you wake up and you’re on the other side,” he said. He was thrown to the opposite side of the train car.

“My recollection of what happened … it’s really hazy,” he said.

Passengers’ belongings were scattered all over, he said. Even the train seats had tumbled around the car.

“There was stuff flying all over the place.”

Bonham said he hit his head but felt OK. He and other passengers began to help others off the train.

Many people in his car could stand up on their own. One woman had a broken leg. He saw one woman who had lost her front teeth, and was bleeding from her mouth. Some passengers were lying on the floor. He had to bend down close to them to tell if they were all right and help them up.

“Blood was all over the place,” he said.

He exited through the back door of the train car. Once outside, he and other passengers were wandering around before emergency crews arrived.

He saw where two other train cars had buckled together and lifted off the ground; some passengers were walking underneath and taking photos.

Police directed Bonham and others who were able to walk but needed medical attention onto a SEPTA bus. He said he was transported to Aria Health, where he waited to have his minor head injury checked and was released at about 2 or 3 a.m. He left and got his own hotel room for the rest of the night.

At 30th Street Station, two dozen American Red Cross volunteers wearing red vests were on hand Wednesday in response to the derailment.
A Red Cross spokesman said the agency has helped 75 people since the accident, including about 60 stranded at 30th Street.

The Red Cross, in coordination with Amtrak, was working to provide transportation for those passengers. Some had family and friends retrieve them; others took taxis and buses. One family was from Chile, Red Cross spokesman Anthony Tornetta said, and they were staying in New York on vacation.

Counseling, along with coffee, snacks and water on food court tables, was being offered by the Red Cross.

“We’re making sure they’re in good spirits,” Tornetta said.


(Contributing to this report were Daily News staff writers Dana DiFilippo and Stephanie Farr and Inquirer staff writers Paul Nussbaum, Laura McCrystal, Caitlin McCabe, Jessica Parks, and Martha Woodall.)

(c)2015 The Philadelphia Inquirer, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Investigators examine the train derailment site on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, after a northbound Amtrak train crashed in the Port Richmond area of Philadelphia Tuesday night. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)