An Amtrak train left Washington, D.C. on May 12, 2015 and derailed that night in Philadelphia. The accident left at least six dead and over 200 injured some critically. Passengers were forced to scramble through windows to exit the train in the darkness. The scene with seven mangled cars was described as “devastating.” It appears to have been one of the most severe incidents in years for the heavily traveled Northeast corridor between New York and Boston. It happened at a curve in the tracks, not far from the scene of the nation’s deadliest train wreck over 70 years ago. The cause of the accident is unknown at this time. The northeast corridor is the nation’s most heavily traveled passenger rail line, and Amtrak reported its highest ever passenger ridership in 2014. That busy rail corridor has now been shut down as the investigation, clean-up and repairs get underway.
Sussman & Simcox previously represented a Maryland family who suffered a terrible loss in the COMAIR air disaster in Kentucky in 2006 and is familiar with the investigative process employed in mass transit disasters. Investigators immediately look at three categories of causes – human, mechanical, and environmental. The train operator, who sustained minor injuries, has given an initial statement to investigators. Investigators will also review video from the camera that is connected to the front of the engine, which may reveal track conditions or debris obstructions. The train engine is also equipped with a data recorder that has now been recovered, which will reveal such information as the train speed before the derailment when brakes were applied, and whether any major systems malfunctioned. The investigative process can take months to conclude, and can reveal more than one cause, such as both an inattentive operator and faulty brakes. Our hearts go out to those victims, their family and friends.