PHILADELPHIA — Armed with flashlights, teams searched train cars and the area near the crash looking for victims of an Amtrak train that derailed and tipped over in Philadelphia — killing at least seven.
Another 200 or so were taken to various hospitals, including six in critical condition, authorities said. And at least two people are still missing.
“It is an absolute, disastrous mess,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said of the crash site. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”
National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said Wednesday that the train was traveling at 106 mph as it approached a curve where the speed limit was 50 mph. Just before the curve the speed limit was 70 mph. Right before the crash the engineer hit the brakes, Sumwalt said.
The engineer has been identified to CNN as 32-year-old Brandon Bostian from New York.
Authorities say the locomotive’s data recorder has been recovered and that it should yield critical information that will further help determine what caused the crash.
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 five crew members.
The Federal Railroad Administration says Amtrak inspected tracks in Philadelphia just hours before a deadly derailment and found no defects.
Nutter said on Wednesday that, “there was no indication the derailment was a result of an impact with another train, he said.
So far, there’s nothing to indicate the incident was an act of terrorism.
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.
The victims who died:
The U.S. Naval Academy midshipman described as a “great kid and genius” was identified from the name emblazoned on his uniform, a family member said.
Zemser, 20, was from Rockaway Beach in Queens. He was a sophomore at the Annapolis academy, according to his Naval Academy profile.
The academy notified his family of his death Tuesday night, a family member said. His parents “are beside themselves.”
“The Brigade of Midshipman, staff and faculty were notified of the midshipman’s death this morning,” the Naval Academy said. “The Naval Academy is supporting the midshipman’s family, friends and loved ones during this time of grief.”
Zemser attended Channel View High School and was a two-year letter winner on the football team as a wide receiver. He was team captain in 2011 and 2012, when he was named to the All-Borough Team. He also was elected as the student government president.
“He was a loving son, nephew and cousin, who was very community-minded. This tragedy has shocked us all in the worst way, and we wish to spend this time grieving with our close family and friends,” said Zemser’s mother, Susan Zemser.
The death of Associated Press video software architect Jim Gaines, who once won the company’s “Geek of the Month” award, was confirmed by his wife, Jacqueline, the news service reported.
The Associated Press said Gaines was a 48-year-old father of two. He had been attending meetings in Washington and was returning home to Plainsboro, New Jersey. He is also survived by his 16-year-old son, Oliver, and daughter, Anushka, 11.
In a statement, Jacqueline Gaines said: “Jim was more precious to us than we can adequately express. We kindly request that you respect our wishes for privacy as we absorb this incredible loss. In due time, we will make a statement that will fully reflect the incredible person that Jim was.”
Gaines had worked for the wire service since 1998. He was a video software architect, meaning he worked on the wire’s distribution of news video to customers around the world.
The death of Wells Fargo executive Abid Gilani was confirmed by his company. He was senior vice president of its hospitality finance group and was a “valued member” of the division, a company spokeswoman said.
Rachel Jacobs was chief executive of the small tech company ApprenNet. She is survived by her husband and 2-year-old son.
“This is an unthinkable tragedy. Rachel was a wonderful mother, daughter, sister, wife and friend,” her family said. “She was devoted to her family, her community and the pursuit of social justice. We cannot imagine life without her.”
Robert Gildersleeve, an executive at Ecolab, a St. Paul, Minnesota-based chemical company, remains missing. His sister-in-law told CNN the father of two had been going to New York on business.
Others are not identified
The identities of the other people killed have not been released.
Hospitals have treated more than 200 others, many of whom have been released. That figure includes eight in critical condition at Temple University Hospital, the closest trauma center to the crash site, according to Herb Cushing, the hospital’s medical director. He said many passengers were injured when other passengers or objects fell on them.
The moment of impact
“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.
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.