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Amtrak 188 crash in Philadelphia: What we know, what we don’t (Friday updates)

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Updated: 6:00 p.m. Friday 

Amtrak’s Northeast Regional 188 train crashed just after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday near Port Richmond in Philadelphia while 238 passengers and five crew were on board. Federal officials have reported the train was traveling 106 mph when it entered a curve with a speed limit of 50 mph.

Here’s what we know so far (and what we don’t):

What we know

The basics:

  • Amtrak’s Northeast Regional 188 train crashed just after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night, with 238 passengers and five crew aboard.
  • Eight people have died as a result of injuries suffered from the crash and more than 200 people were transported to local hospitals. The eighth victim was found Thursday morning in the wreckage after the use of a cadaver dog, and all eight victims have been identified. Mayor Michael Nutter said that everyone they believe was on the train has been accounted for as of noon Thursday.
  • Nutter said 43 people remain in area hospitals, 18 of whom are at Temple University hospital. By 2:20 p.m. Thursday, Temple said 11 patients remained there, six of whom are in critical condition.
  • There was a wide variety of people treated for injuries. A Temple hospital doctor said during a press conference that the oldest patient he recalls was about 80. The youngest patients, he said, were in their 20s.
  • In the words of Mayor Michael Nutter on the night of the crash, “It’s an absolute disastrous mess. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”
  • Today, heavy equipment like cranes and bulldozers will continue working at the crash site in an effort to comb through the wreckage.

Possible causes:

  • During a press conference Wednesday, the NTSB reported the engineer applied full emergency brakes just before the derailment when the train was traveling at 106 mph. In the next three seconds, the speed had only decreased to 102 mph.
  • The authorized speed in the curve where the train derailed is 50 mph, and heading into the curve is 80 mph. Engineers are expected to significantly slow trains before heading into the curve.
  • The engineer driving the train was identified as Brandon Bostian of Queens, NY. He later told police he didn’t recall how fast he was going. He also told the NTSB that he did not feel any fatigue or illness while operating the train.
  • On Thursday, Philadelphia Police issued a search warrant for Bostian’s cell phone records.
  • An NTSB official said Amtrak has installed technology throughout most of the Northeast Corridor that automatically slows down trains that are speeding. This area of the track wasn’t installed with the technology yet, and the NTSB official said he believes that if it had been, this accident could have been prevented. Amtrak committed to have the technology installed in the Northeast Corridor by the end of this year.
  • Nutter did say that the “black box” was recovered from the train which holds information like speed, braking and other information recorded.
  • NTSB officials said on Thursday afternoon that Amtrak 188 left 30th Street Station on time, putting to bed rumors that the train was running late and the speed-up was to compensate for that.
  • Officials also said the train accelerated from 70 mph to 100 mph in one minute prior to the derailment, but it can’t confirm that the speed-up of the train was manual and done intentionally by the engineer. It did say the the train does not have an automatic throttle. The NTSB, however, is investigating to see whether a “mechanical anomaly” caused the jump in speed.
  • At a Friday press conference, NTSB officials said they had interviewed the engineer and two assistant conductors. Bostian, the engineer, could not recollect anything beyond sounding a bell after passing through North Philadelphia. One of the assistant conductors reported hearing a conversation before the crash between Bostian and an engineer on a SEPTA train. She heard the SEPTA engineer say a projectile — a rock or a bullet — had hit the SEPTA train and then heard Bostian say he also thought a projectile had hit the Amtrak train he was driving.
  • The NTSB could not confirm the assistant conductor’s story of the train getting hit. When it asked Bostian about it, he said he could not recall the train being hit by a projectile.
  • The NTSB said the train’s front windshield had a circular puncture in it and is having the FBI analyze it. It does not know what caused the puncture yet.

The victims:

  • Justin Zemser, 20, of Rockaway Beach, NY, who was a Navy Academy Midshipman
  • Jim Gaines, 46, a father of two from Plainsboro, NJ, who was a video software architect for the Associated Press
  • Rachel Jacobs, CEO of Philadelphia-based startup ApprenNET.
  • Abid Gilani, a vice president at Wells Fargo.
  • Derrick Griffith, dean of student affairs at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College.
  • Bob Gildersleeve, 45, of Baltimore, MD.
  • Laura Finamore, 47, of Manhattan, NY.
  • Giuseppe Piras, 41, of Italy.
  • Click here for what we know about the victims.

The employees:

  • The engineer and conductor of the train both survived the crash and are being interviewed by investigators. The engineer has declined to speak with investigators, according to The Inquirer, and is referring police to his attorney.
  • The conductor is at Einstein Hospital with a skull fracture. We don’t yet know his name.

The closures:

  • The Northeast Corridor, which runs between Washington, D.C. and Boston and is Amtrak’s most popular line, is closed between Philadelphia and New York City.
  • SEPTA’s Trenton line will also be completely shut down for at least a week.

What we don’t know:

  • What caused the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating, and that process takes time — as in more than one news cycle, likely a few weeks.
  • The scope of the injuries to those still hospitalized, particularly those in critical condition.
  • Follow our story on the crash, and we’ll email you with updates.

Photo: NTSB

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