PHILADELPHIA — How do all seven cars and the engine of an Amtrak train jump the rails, sending passengers, luggage, laptops and more flying?
Authorities haven’t said, definitively, what caused the derailment of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 in Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
A source briefed by investigators said the train was believed to have been traveling 107 mph.
That would be about twice the 50 mph speed limit for the curve it was in.
Seven people are dead and another 200 were taken to various hospitals, including six in critical condition, authorities said.
“It is an absolute, disastrous mess,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter of the crash site. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”
The Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 was traveling from Washington to New York when it derailed in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The impact tore cars apart and left the engine a mangled mess.
The northeast corridor, which spans from Washington to Boston, is the busiest passenger line in the country, and the train was carrying 238 passengers and 5 crew members.
“We do not know what happened here. We do not know why it happened,” Nutter said. There was no indication the derailment was a result of an impact with another train, he said.
Early Wednesday morning, investigators in orange vests walked up and down the track, especially near a part where it curves.
The area of the crash is known as Frankford Junction.
In 1943, it was the site of one of the nation’s deadliest train accidents when The Congressional Limited crashed, killing 79 people.
“Until the second of impact, everything was normal,” passenger Daniel Wetrin told CNN. “Then it was just chaos.”
Jeremy Wladis was in the very last car, eating.
“The next thing you know, the train starts doing funny things, and it gradually starts getting worse and worse,” he said.
Then, things started flying — phones, laptops. “Then people.”
“There were two people in the luggage rack above my head. Two women, catapulted [there].”
Firefighters arrived to find seven cars and the train’s engine either turned over or upside down. Most of the passengers were able to escape, climbing out of windows to safety. Crews had to cut through the cars to get to others.
At a news conference around 1 a.m., Mayor Nutter said he couldn’t say whether all the passengers had been accounted Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board will arrive at the scene in the morning, and the investigation into what happened will begin.
The deadliest accident in Amtrak’s history took place in September 1993, when a tugboat smashed into a river bridge, causing it to collapse as an Amtrak train was passing over. The accident in Mobile, Alabama, killed 47 people.
Amtrak shut down rail service between Philadelphia and New York City Tuesday night. It set up a special number for those seeking information on friends and family aboard the train: 1-800-523-9101.