2 killed after Amtrak train hits backhoe, derails

World Today

Amtrak investigators inspect the deadly train crash in Chester, Pa., Sunday, April 3 2016. The Amtrak train struck a piece of construction equipment just south of Philadelphia causing a derailment. (Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

An Amtrak train struck a piece of construction equipment just south of Philadelphia on Sunday causing a derailment, killing two people and sending more than 30 others to hospitals, authorities said.

CCTV America’s Jessica Stone reports from Chester, Pennsylvania.

Amtrak train hits equipment on track; 2 workers die

An Amtrak train struck a piece of construction equipment just south of Philadelphia on Sunday causing a derailment, killing two people and sending more than 30 others to hospitals, authorities said. CCTV America's Jessica Stone reports.

Train 89 was heading from New York to Savannah, Georgia, at about 8 a.m. when it hit a backhoe that was on the track in Chester, about 15 miles outside of Philadelphia, officials said. The impact derailed the lead engine of the train, which was carrying 340 passengers and seven crew members.

Killed were the operator of the heavy machinery in tracks and a crew member. Chester fire commissioner Travis Thomas said neither of the two killed was a passenger on the train. Thomas and Amtrak officials said those taken to hospitals with injuries that weren’t considered life-threatening.

“As of now we have recovered the train data recorder, the forward facing video and the inward facing video on the locomotive to send to our laboratory in Washington D.C. Most of our investigators have arrived on scene and we will be looking at operations, signal, track and human performance and survival factors,” NTSB Investigator Ryan Frigo said.

Officials with the Federal Railroad Administration were also sent to the scene, said Matthew Lehner, a spokesman for the agency. Officials said they didn’t know why the back hoe was on the tracks.

Passengers say they felt a jolt, saw smoke, and dust.

First person account of the derailment:

“We got off track and then it was like a big explosion and then there was a fire and then the windows burst out and then some people were cut up but it was like minor injuries. Some people were cut up and they were just running out,” passenger Linton Holmes said.

Ari Ne’eman, a disability rights activist heading to Washington after speaking at an event in New York, said he was in the second car at the time of the crash.

“The car started shaking wildly, there was a smell of smoke, it looked like there was a small fire and then the window across from us blew out,” said Ne’eman, 28, of Silver Spring, Maryland.

Some of the passengers started to get off after the train stopped, but the conductor quickly stopped them. Officials started evacuateing people to the rear of the train and then off and to a local church.

“It was a very frightening experience. I’m frankly very glad that I was not on the first car,” where there were injuries, he said. “The moment that the car stopped, I said Shema, a Jewish prayer … I was just so thankful that the train had come to a stop and we were OK.”

Service on the Northeast Corridor between New York and Philadelphia is operating after an earlier suspension. Service between Wilmington, Delaware, and Philadelphia remains suspended.

This derailment comes almost a year after an Amtrak train originating from Washington D.C. bound for New York City derailed in Philadelphia. Eight people were killed and more than 200 were injured in the May 12 crash. The exact cause of that crash is still under investigation, but authorities have said the train had been traveling twice the speed limit.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York told reporters he spoke to Amtrak officials Sunday. He said track repair is common on Sunday mornings when fewer trains are scheduled, but that trains should not be present when equipment is on the tracks.

Story by CCTV America and the Associated Press