Amtrak CEO Takes “Full Responsibility”

Meanwhile, authorities say even older failsafes were unavailable to prevent tragedy.

Joseph Boardman, Tom Wolf, Michael Nutter

Joseph Boardman, Amtrak CEO, speaks while Gov. Tom Wolf, and Mayor Michael Nutter listen. | Associated Press

Here’s what we know about the Amtrak derailment, on the third morning following the accident that claimed eight lives:

We knew newer safety equipment wasn’t installed. Neither was older safety equipment. “The Positive Train Control system has garnered plenty of attention after officials determined it was not installed on the Philadelphia railway where Amtrak Regional 188 hurled off the tracks Tuesday night,” NBC 10 reports. “Yet another system called Automatic Train Control which has been around for decades also wasn’t installed on the track, even though it’s installed on tracks throughout the country.” That system “signals the engineer if the train exceeds speed limits. The engineer has a few seconds to slow the train before the safety system takes over and brings it to a stop.” It’s installed on the southbound tracks — but not on the northbound side.

Why are the safety systems absent? “A spokeswoman for the railroad said Thursday that the decision not to install the system on the northbound stretch of track had been made in the 1990s and reflected the maximum allowable speeds in each direction,” the New York Times says. “Trains approaching Philadelphia from New York can travel as fast as 110 miles per hour, Amtrak said, and face a steeper decrease in allowable speed heading into the curve than trains traveling from Philadelphia toward New York.”

Amtrak’s CEO says the railroad takes full responsibility for the wreck. “With truly heavy hearts, we mourn those who died. Their loss leaves holes in the lives of their families and communities,” Joseph Boardman, Amtrak president and CEO, said in a letter on Amtrak’s official blog. “Amtrak takes full responsibility and deeply apologizes for our role in this tragic event.”

The eighth victim has been identified: “Thursday, Queens native Laura Finamore, 47, a managing director at Cushman & Wakefield in Manhattan, was identified as one of those killed,” says Newsday. “Finamore, of Manhattan, who was born and reared in Douglaston, had a 20-year career in corporate real estate, according to her family.”

The total list includes Finamore; Bob Gildersleeve,a vice president at Ecolab of St. Paul, Minnesota; Justin Zemser, 20, a Naval Academy midshipman; Jim Gaines, 48, an AP staffer; Abid Gilani, a senior vice president of Wells Fargo’s commercial real estate division,; Rachel Jacobs, chief executive of ApprenNet; Derrick Griffith, 42, of Brooklyn, an administrator at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn; and Giuseppe Piras, 40.

The first funeral is today: “The former principal at Channel View School for Research, where Justin Zemser was valedictorian, student government president and captain of the football team, confirmed his funeral will be held at 11:30 a.m. Friday at Boulevard-Riverside-Hewlett Chapel in Hewlett,” NBC New York reports.

 • The first lawsuit is in. “A lawyer says city resident Bruce Phillips is still being treated at a hospital for a concussion, brain trauma and spinal injuries from Tuesday’s crash,” AP reports. The attorney “says Amtrak is to blame regardless of whether the derailment resulted from operator action or mechanical failure. The federal lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $150,000.”
More, surely, to come.