'An Absolute Disastrous Mess'

The derailment of an Amtrak train killed at least seven people and injured dozens more in Philadelphia.

Rescue workers search for victims in the wreckage of the derailed train. (Bryan Woolston / Reuters)

Updated 5/13/15, 2:51 p.m.

Sources close to the investigation say that the Amtrak train that derailed on Tuesday night may have been traveling at twice the mandated speed when it jumped the tracks. According to The New York Times and others, trains reaching Frankfort Junction are supposed to drop to 50 miles-per-hour as they near the turn; two sources say Amtrak 188 may have been going as fast as 100 miles-per-hour when it derailed.

While a definitive speed may not be known until the train’s black box is analyzed, the fact that all seven train cars derailed in the accident have already led some to speculate that speed was the culprit.

Updated 5/13/15, 1:41 p.m.

The death toll in Tuesday evening’s derailment rose to seven after rescue workers discovered the body of another passenger amid the wreckage. “The teams were using cranes and hydraulic jaws to pull apart the twisted metal to get access to the cars,” USA Today noted.

Earlier in the day, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter  told reporters that officials were still matching train records with hospital records and that not all known passengers had been located.

“One of those unaccounted for, co-workers said, was Rachel Jacobs, chief executive officer of ApprenNet, an education technology company in Philadelphia,” The New York Times reported. “On Twitter, the company posted a message: ‘We are still looking for Rachel & hope she will be with her family soon.’”

Updated 5/13/15, 11:34 a.m.

At a press conference on Wednesday morning, following the derailment on an Amtrak train near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday night, officials announced the recovery of a black box, which investigators hope will shed some light on what might have cause the train to derail.

As medical teams continue to work the crash site, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter noted not all passengers have been accounted for. He also added that Philadelphia hospitals had treated about 200 patients overnight and that half of them had been released.

"We are heartbroken by what we've experienced here," Nutter said. "We have not experienced anything like this in modern times."

An official from the National Transportation Safety Board also spoke on Wednesday morning and was bombarded by questions about the train’s speed along with concerns about the condition of the tracks. He urged patience and explained that an analysis of the black box would yield insights into how fast the train was going and what engineers did in the moments before the crash.

“You have a lot of questions, we have a lot of questions," NTSB official Robert Sumwalt told reporters. "We intend to answer many of those questions in the next 24 to 48 hours.”

At least seven people are dead and dozens more are injured after an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday night. The train, which had been traveling to New York from Washington, D.C., was carrying 238 passengers and five crew members at the time of the crash.*

The causes of the derailment, in which all seven of the train’s cars were thrown off the tracks, are still unknown. Federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railroad Administration have been sent to the site of the crash, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, but the investigation is likely to take months. Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter said officials would give an update on the crash at 11 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

The event resurfaced memories of a 1943 railroad crash in Pennsylvania that left 79 people dead. That crash happened at the very same curve in the tracks where Tuesday night’s train was derailed—a spot called Frankford Junction. “The area is normally under a speed restriction, requiring trains to slow down as they approach,” The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. “Determining the speed of Train 188 at the time of the accident will be part of the investigation.” In 1943, according to a New York Times report from the time, the train was traveling no more than 45 miles an hour.

Former Pennsylvania congressman Patrick Murphy was a passenger on Tuesday night’s train. An image he posted to Twitter from the scene of the crash has been widely circulated:

“It is an absolute disastrous mess,” said Nutter. “I have never seen anything like this in my life.”

* This article originally stated the train was traveling from New York to D.C. We regret the error.