What Caused The Amtrak Crash? Speed Was Probably A Factor, According To The Train's Data

The Amtrak that crashed in Pennsylvania on Tuesday night has left at least eight people dead and more than 200 people injured, making it one of the worst Amtrak crashes on record. But what made the train — which was traveling on a common route from Washington, D.C. to New York City — derail? According to the data recorder on the train, Amtrak 188 was going too fast when it crashed in Philadelphia, CNBC reports. When it derailed, the train was rounding a sharp curve known as Frankford Junction where the speed limit is 50 mph. CNBC says official sources claim the train was going more than 100 mph when it crashed, with the Associated Press estimating that the train was traveling at approximately 107 mph. (Update: In a statement Wednesday, the National Transportation Safety Board said that the train was traveling at over 100 m.p.h. when it crashed.)

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said Amtrak officials are still analyzing the train's data recorder, which is similar to a plane's "black box." Information that can be discovered from the recorder include not only the speed at which the train was traveling, but also the throttle position and braking, according to Deborah Hersman, former chair of the National Transportation Safety Board. Video cameras installed on the train will also show what the track conditions and environmental conditions were like.

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According to the Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak had just performed inspections in Philadelphia earlier Tuesday — only hours before the crash — and found no defects in the tracks. The National Transportation Safety Board said its investigators will not just look at data in the recorder, but also at the train's operation, the conductor's actions, and track signals.

The Wall Street Journal reports that "two people with knowledge of the investigation" said Amtrak officials notified some employees in a conference call Wednesday that excessive speed likely contributed to the crash.

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In a statement given in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Amtrak expressed sympathy for those who died and were injured in the crash. The company established a Family Assistance Center and provided a hotline number for friends and family members to call if they had any questions. The statement began:

We are deeply saddened by the loss of life from Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 that derailed north of Philadelphia Tuesday evening.

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