A crash investigation has begun into what caused an Amtrak train to derail in north Philadelphia, killing at least five people and leaving six others critically injured.
A sixth person was declared dead by Herb Cushing, medical director of Temple University hospital in Philadelphia, where several of the injured were taken, according to local television news reports. During the night the mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, had confirmed that five people had died in the crash.
Federal investigators arrived on the scene of the mangled and overturned cars on Wednesday morning to try to establish the cause of the crash.
The Northeast Regional 188 service was carrying 243 people, including five crew, when it went off the rails between Washington DC and New York city shortly after 9pm local time. The front of the train was going into a long curve when it started to shake, according to passengers.
The carriages lay several yards from the rails in the dark in a twisted chain of wreckage, as passengers desperately struggled to get out.
Nutter described the scene as a “disastrous mess” and said some of the passengers had not been accounted for.
“It is an absolute disastrous mess,” Nutter said. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”
He said all seven train carriages, including the engine, were in “various stages of disarray”. He said there were some that were “completely overturned, on their side, ripped apart”. The engine was completely separated from the rest of the train, and one of the carriages was perpendicular to the rest, he said.
Six people were in a critical condition, he said. Hospital figures showed that 136 of the survivors were taken to hospital. Others stood next to the tracks, hugging each other, staring in shock or using their phones.
Several passengers were trapped and firefighters had to use hydraulic tools to get them out, according to officials. A secondary search was under way for anyone else still inside the wreckage.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it had launched a “go-team” to investigate and would not speculate on the causes.
The FBI said there was no indication that terrorism could have been a factor.
FBI says no indication that terrorism was a factor in Philadelphia derailment that killed at least six and left another six critically injured