Chester Officials: Amtrak Crash ‘Painful, Tragic’

Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland also praised firefighters and cops who aided victims of Sunday's crash.

Photo by passenger Glenn R. Hills Jr. | @glennhills

Photo by passenger Glenn R. Hills Jr. | @glennhills

A day after Amtrak Train 89 slammed into a backhoe on tracks in Chester, Delaware County, little new information has been released about the circumstances surrounding the crash.

Chester officials held a brief news conference this morning, but they primarily discussed the emergency response to the Sunday morning accident, and the lingering heartache over two longtime Amtrak workers who were operating the backhoe and killed when Train 89 slammed into the vehicle.

“This is hard,” said Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland. “It’s painful, and it’s tragic. But hopefully at the end of the day, we will all have learned something to make our railways safer for workers and pedestrians alike.”

Amtrak has not yet identified the workers who lost their lives, but U.S. Rep. Bob Brady told Philadelphia magazine on Sunday night that both were veteran rail workers — one had 40 years on the job, and the other, 20 years.

More than 30 passengers — out of 341 total — were treated for minor injuries.

“We all want to send out of our prayers to the families of the men who lost their lives on the tracks here in Chester yesterday,” Kirkland said.

“Our prayers also go out to the operator of the train. This had to be a very devastating and horrific event for him or her,” he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to offer an update on the status of their investigation later today. Brady said he thought “some kind of lack of communication” played a role in the tragic accident.

Kirkland also praised police officers and firefighters from Chester and several surrounding counties who raced to the scene of the crash.

Chester Fire Commissioner Travis Thomas said emergency dispatchers received a phone call about a vehicle accident on the rail line at 7:54 a.m. Sunday. Emergency responders were likely on scene within three or four minutes, he said.

Thoughts of last May’s horrific Amtrak derailment in the Frankford section of Philadelphia loomed large in the mind of first responders. “That was the first thing in our mind,” Thomas said.

Delaware County’s Emergency Management Team trains to respond to any number of disasters on the railway, he noted.

The crash site stretched from Chester to the nearby Trainer Borough, Thomas said. Firefighters bounded into the train to treat the most seriously injured passengers. Most were loaded onto gurneys or able to walk off the train under their power.

“It was well-handled,” Thomas said. “We made the best out of the worst situation.”

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