New York senator Chuck Schumer said on Sunday a backhoe operator and a supervisor were killed when an Amtrak train struck a piece of equipment on the tracks just south of Philadelphia, U.S.A.
Schumer told reporters in New York he had spoken with Amtrak board chairman Anthony Coscia regarding the 8am crash in Chester, about 15 miles from Philadelphia. Both workers killed were Amtrak employees, he said.
Schumer said debris from the crash flew into the first two cars, injuring some passengers. More than 30 people were taken to hospitals with injuries that were not considered life-threatening.
The senator said it was unclear whether the backhoe was performing regular maintenance or whether it was cleaning up debris from high overnight winds. He called for a complete investigation.
Authorities provided no additional information on the fatalities. Earlier Mike Tolbert, spokesman for Amtrak, said approximately 31 passengers were transported to area hospitals.
Service on the north-east corridor between New York and Philadelphia was suspended.
Train 89 was heading from New York to Savannah, Georgia. About 333 passengers and seven crew members were on board.
Local emergency responders were soon on the scene and the crash was being investigated by Federal Railroad Administration officials, said Matthew Lehner, a spokesman for the agency.
Ari Ne’eman, a disability rights activist heading to Washington after speaking at an event in New York, said he was in the second car at the time of the crash.
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“The car started shaking wildly, there was a smell of smoke, it looked like there was a small fire and then the window across from us blew out,” said Ne’eman, 28, of Silver Spring, Maryland.
Some of the passengers started to get off after the train stopped, he said, but the conductor quickly stopped them. Officials started evacuating people to the rear of the train and then off and to a local church.
“It was a very frightening experience. I’m frankly very glad that I was not on the first car” where there were injuries, Ne’eman said. “The moment that the car stopped, I said Shema, a Jewish prayer ... I was just so thankful that the train had come to a stop and we were OK.”
The crash comes almost a year after a major derailment in May 2015, in which an Amtrak train originating from Washington DC and bound for New York City derailed in Philadelphia. Eight people were killed and more than 200 injured.
The exact cause of that crash is still under investigation, but authorities have said the train had been traveling twice the speed limit.
Source: The Guardian