By now, there are few who haven’t heard about the Amtrak Train 188 derailment that led to the deaths of eight train passengers and caused more than 200 injuries. While investigators are still looking into the exact cause of the crash and the details of the train accident, it is now known that the train was traveling at 106 mph before the engineer activated the emergency brake, slowing the train four miles per an hour, to 102 mph before it hurtled off the tracks.
Many described the front cars of the derailed train appeared as nothing more than a mangled-wreck of metal. A number of the front train cars were overturned onto their sides resulting in confusion as terrified passengers attempted to escape. One car struck a steel utility pole before it came to rest.
Eyewitness Accounts Describe Terror and Horrific Injuries
One rider who worked for the Associated Press recounted for news reporters that as the train derailed, the lights in the passenger cabin were cut. As the lights went out, she remembers, passengers and their belonging were thrown from their seats and cargo areas. In fact, the forces were so violent, that after orienting herself, she realized that she had been thrown beneath seats ripped out of the train’s floor. As she freed herself from the debris, she remembered seeing a man lying motionless on the ground with his face covered in blood and a woman with what appeared to be a broken leg. She stated that “The scene in the car I was in was total disarray, and people were clearly in a great deal of pain.”
A manager at the Associated Press who was on the train at the time told his news organization that the train decelerated suddenly and started to shake as people’s personal belongings flew through the air. He, like many passengers, escaped the wrecked train by navigating the darkened train and exiting through the rear of the car. When interviewed by reporters that manager said, “I think the fact that I walked off kind of made it even more surreal because a lot of people didn’t walk off. I walked off as if, like, I was in a movie. There were people standing around, people with bloody faces. There were people, chairs, tables mangled about in the compartment … power cables all buckled down as you stepped off the train.”
Patients That Were Brought to Aria Health
Although it’s been a popular media narrative that most of the injured passengers who were brought to the two local Aria medical facilities typically had less severe injuries compared to those who were transported to Temple University Hospital, it is not wholly accurate. Many with serious, life-altering injuries were also taken to Aria’s facilities. In an interview conducted by CBS News with three Aria emergency room doctors, the doctors revealed the types of injuries they had treated at their facility. These injuries included:
- Broken ribs
- Fractured neck
- Spinal cord injuries
- Head trauma and traumatic brain injuries
- General blunt trauma injuries
- Broken legs
These type of injuries are consistent with witness reports of a sudden deceleration because they suggest that forces involved caused the passengers to be thrown about the cabin
Patients Treated at Temple University Hospital
Many seriously injured patients, including the passenger who died from what doctors describe as a “massive chest injury,” were taken to nearby Temple University Hospital. In all, temple hospital treated more 54 passengers who were injured in the train derailment. While temple’s doctors saw some similarities to what doctors at Aria experienced, there were clear differences.
For instance, Dr. Herbert Cushing of the Temple Hospital remarked that he expected to find a lot of head trauma injuries, like TBIs, but he said that the hospital only treated a single head injury. He said that the most prevalent injury was fractured ribs. He stated that the rib injuries, in his mind, confirmed that passengers were thrown from the car when the train derailed.
Other Injuries Sustained in the Derailment
There are a number of other injuries seen at the accident scene. Reporters indicated that many wobbled as they attempted to board buses, perhaps suggesting a head trauma, or another injury causing disorientation. Reports indicated that at least one passenger complained of severe neck or back pain. He was taken away for medical treatment on a stretcher. News footage of the accident aftermath showed an elderly woman receiving oxygen for unspecified injuries.
The train’s engineer and conductor were injured as well. The engineer suffered a suspected brain injury – a concussion – and claims to have no recollection of the speed he was traveling, hitting the emergency brake, or the collision. The conductor suffered a skull fracture and is being treated at Einstein Hospital.
Common Carriers Owe Passengers the Highest Duty of Care
Common carriers, like Amtrak, owe their passengers the highest duty of care. This means that they must, generally, take precautions against all known accident or injury risks. While all the facts and details are not yet in, investigators are working to preserve and analyze evidence. The train accident attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm will continue to provide updates on this tragic situation as information comes available.