Emergency personnel work the scene of a deadly train wreck, Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP/Joseph Kaczmarek)

Eyewitness accounts of Amtrak derailment paint a grisly picture

"There was a lot of blood. A lot of folks got banged up, got hurt bad"


Joanna Rothkopf
May 13, 2015 4:50PM (UTC)

On Tuesday evening around 9:30 p.m., Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 operating from Washington to New York, derailed in Philadelphia. According to authorities, about 238 passengers and five Amtrak crew members were aboard the train, and as of Wednesday morning, CNN reports that six people have died, while 146 others were injured.

"We were just on the train and all of a sudden it started to shake," said Joan Helfman who was on the train with her son in an interview with a local CBS affiliate. "And we were in the front seat and this huge red suitcase just came flying at me... Our train was actually on its side so it pushed me onto the side of the train. It hit my chest. I think I have a few fractured ribs. I'm a nurse."

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During the accident, Helfman thought "that this is a nightmare and it can't be happening."

"I saw so many head injuries and bloody faces," she continued. "There was nothing I could do to help, except talk to the people."

"Luckily I'm still here. I'm still walking," said Helfman's son Max. "I got really lucky, so I figured I would do my best to help because I saw everyone. I could see the blood on people's faces... I did my best to try to help people out of that car because it was smoking."

Paul Cheung, an Associated Press manager, recounted: "[The train] started to decelerate, like someone had slammed the brake... Then suddenly you could see everything starting to shake. You could see people's stuff flying over me."

"I walked off as if, like, I was in a movie," said Daniel Wetrin, another passenger. "There were people standing around, people with bloody faces... power cables all buckled down as you stepped off the train."

Former Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy was also aboard the train.

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"I'm sitting there with my ear buds in, I'm sitting there doing some work and then all the sudden you just felt something happen," Murphy recounted on a radio show Wednesday morning. "The whole train was shaking and it went far to the left, and then it went violently like it was going to tip to the left, and then it was violently to the right and our car just flipped over on the side. Right away, I was holding onto the table a little bit -- I mean the force was just overwhelming."

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"We just flipped over, and then it was just dark and just dusty, just a lot of blood," he said in another interview. "It was mayhem at first. I was in the Café car, so about eight or nine cars, I was in the fourth car probably. There was a lot of blood. A lot of folks got banged up, got hurt bad."

Murphy recounted a chaotic evacuation: "[People] didn't care about anyone else, so stepping over people and stuff," Murphy said. "So I pushed out the emergency window. I had to lift myself up because it was kind of on the ceiling and then lifted people up. About eight or nine people got out."

The Congressman tweeted several photos from inside the train:

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Anyone with questions about specific passengers on the train should call Amtrak's Emergency Hotline at 800-523-9101.


Joanna Rothkopf

MORE FROM Joanna RothkopfFOLLOW @joannarothkopf


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Accidents Amtrak Amtrak Crash Derailment Disaster Emergency Pennsylvania Train

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