Trains view from station at New Brunswick, NJ

A Train Derails in Philadelphia

As the death toll rises, the questions about what caused Tuesday night’s train derailment in Philadelphia mount. First responders are scrambling to provide care to the injured while police seek to illuminate the situation. They are gathering all pertinent facts in hopes of piecing together the scene. As these police, plus safety and rescue workers, sift through the wreckage, friends and families of the passengers wait anxiously, hoping that clarifying details emerge. Early photos are frightening, the derailed train cars painting a jagged tangent off the rail line they’d forcefully abandoned, pieces of themselves strewn violently across the landscape.


Some of the Facts:

  • The train, Amtrak 188, was heading from Washington, D.C. to New York, N.Y. and crashed at approximately 9:30PM Tuesday night, in north Philadelphia.
  • The neighborhood where the crash occurred is called Frankford Junction.
  • The train was traveling at upwards of 100MPH at the time directly preceding the crash.
  • 238 passengers and 5 crew members were logged as officially on-board the train.
  • At least 7 are confirmed dead, at the time of this posting.
  • 200 more were injured, some critically so.


What Went Wrong?

Authorities are still unsure as to what exactly caused the derailment and ensuing wreck, but the black box has been recovered, which leaves investigators optimistic about recovering even more information. There was some good news abound in the aftermath. Only one head injury was reported which was a surprisingly low figure according to a medical professional who was consulted to survey the survivors. Many suffered broken ribs and other minor injuries, but are expected to make full recoveries. Certainly this does nothing to take away from the grief felt by those who lost loved ones, but with each new survivor pulled from the wreckage or diagnosed with a treatable injury, a feeling of relief and of silver linings arises in those tasked with assessing and correcting the damage. Many of the survivors were rushed to nearby Temple University Hospital.

Another silver lining can be found in that the neighborhood where the crash occurred, Frankford Junction, is populated mostly by industrial buildings and warehouses, which themselves are populated more heavily during daytime work hours. That the crash happened fairly late at night, and in a non-residential area, limited the collateral damage. No bystanders were among the deaths reported so far.

Unfortunately, there are still passengers unaccounted for- people that may still be lost amidst the wreckage.

Due to the extensive damage suffered by the tracks and the accessory power lines, Amtrak service to Philadelphia will more than likely be suspended for at least a week. In fact, the “northeaster corridor” route, which runs from Boston to Washington, has been compromised, and service between at least New York City and Washington will be limited.

The assigned maximum speed limit of the zone the train was traveling through was 50MPH, less than half the speed the train was moving when it derailed. Why would the train have been moving so fast? Why were posted speed limits unheeded? These are the questions investigators will be looking to answer in the coming days and weeks. But this early evidence narrows down the root causes. Oftentimes, mechanical failures in track signals or large obstructions lodged accidentally in the tracks themselves are the culprits behind derailments and wrecks. In this situation, however, it seems excessive speed was the only factor. What remains to be seen is why proper speed was not maintained over the course of the journey.

Normally, there are governors in place, mechanical safeguards that work by overriding engineers’ manual input and limiting speed. In this way, it can be made certain that trains won’t ascend over the approved thresholds and proceed dangerously around turns. On this stretch of the route, however, no advanced safety system presides over the activities of the train and no such governors were in place.

Did a conductor disregard protocol, summarily ignoring the limits put in place to protect passengers? Or was the issue mechanical after all? Did some internal component of the train malfunction, yielding fatal results?

It may be too soon to tell.


Kaplan Lawyers PC

Of course, if you’ve been affected in any way by this tragedy, it may become necessary to retain legal counsel. If you feel like you’re not sure where to turn, we can help assist you through your time of need. With questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Kaplan Lawyers PC. Scheduling a free and easy consultation can help set you down the right path.

There is also an Amtrak hotline available, which is fielding questions concerning the crash. The number is: 800-523-9101.