Death Toll Rises in Amtrak Derailment

WSJ reports "excessive speed" suspected as cause of crash.

Left and right photos by Holly Otterbeing. Mayor Nutter image courtesy of Fox 29.

Left and right photos by Holly Otterbein. Mayor Nutter image courtesy of Fox 29.

[Update: 12:40 p.m.] A seventh victim of the Amtrak derailment has died.

A seventh person is dead in an Amtrak train derailment Tuesday night that injured dozens and plunged screaming passengers into darkness and chaos Tuesday night.

A Philadelphia police spokesman confirmed a seventh death early Wednesday afternoon. More details were not immediately available.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that “excessive speed” is suspected as the cause of the crash:

An Amtrak train involved in a fatal crash here appears to have been traveling at more than 100 miles an hour as it entered a sharp curve where it derailed Tuesday night, killing at least six people, according to two people with knowledge of the investigation.

The speed limit in that section of track drops to 50 miles per hour, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

Investigators are focusing on the possibility that excessive speed was a factor in the derailment, one of these people said.

[Update: 12:22 p.m.] Jim Gaines, an AP staffer from New Jersey, is among the dead. AP reports:

Jim Gaines, a 48-year-old father of two, had attended meetings in Washington. He was returning home to Plainsboro, New Jersey, when the train derailed Tuesday night. His death was confirmed by his wife, Jacqueline.

Gaines joined the AP in 1998 and was a key factor in nearly all of the news agency’s video initiatives, including a service providing live video to hundreds of clients worldwide.

[Update 11:41 a.m.] WBAL in Baltimore is reporting that one of the dead passengers is a Naval Academy midshipman. The midshipman was not identified.

“The Naval Academy is deeply saddened to report that a midshipman was named as one of the passengers who lost their life in the Amtrak train,” USNA spokeswoman Jennifer Erickson said in a statement. “The midshipman was on leave and en route to their home of record when the accident occurred.”

“The Naval Academy is supporting the midshipman’s family, friends and loved ones during this time of grief. Grief counseling services and support are available to midshipmen, faculty and staff through chains of command, our chaplains and the Midshipmen Development Center.”

[Original 10:53 a.m.] Investigators have recovered a “black box” from the Amtrak train that derailed Tuesday night in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia, but first responders are still seeking possible survivors in the wreckage.

“It’s a devastating scene,” Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a mid-morning press conference at the scene of the accident where six people died. “There are many first responders out there. They are working, carefully examining equipment to see if anyone is still in the rail cars.”

“This is a horrific scene,” Mayor Michael Nutter added.

One problem: Officials are still trying to figure out exactly who was on the train. The passenger manifest doesn’t completely match the list of names of people taken to Philadelphia hospitals after the crash.

“We don’t have an accurate count” of who might still be missing, Nutter acknowledged.

Meanwhile, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered the state’s flags flown at half-mast in the face of the tragedy. Nutter made a similar order for city flags.

Officials at the press conference said seven investigators from the NTSB were on the scene, with more on the way. The black box — which records a host of information, including the train’s speed — is now being analyzed at Amtrak’s operations center in Delaware.

“What was the train speed? What was the limit on that curve? It’s our job to document that,” Sumwalt said. “We can get a lot of information” from the recorder.

The train’s conductor was injured, but speaking to investigators, officials said.

Anthony Coscia, Amtrak’s chairman, promised a “thorough” investigation. “This is the Amtrak family,” he said.

But officials repeatedly emphasized they would not speculate about the cause of the accident.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” Nutter said.There are some things we know. There are many things we do not know at this time, and we will not speculate on those things, as you know.”