Scene of train crash beyond a disaster movie, says Philadelphia mayor

Officials are still searching for passengers who may have been on an Amtrak train Tuesday night before it crashed in Philadelphia. Mayor Michael Nutter joins Judy Woodruff for an update on the deadly derailment that shut down a busy stretch of rail service in the Northeast corridor.

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    And we turn now to Philadelphia Mayor's, Michael Nutter. I spoke to him a short time ago.

    Mayor Nutter, thank you for talking with us.

  • MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, Philadelphia:



    Tell us what it's like dealing with this. I know you have had other accidents, crises in the city of Philadelphia. How does this compare?


    Well, I don't think we have had anything that is comparable. I mean, we have never had a derailment like this in recent times.

    But the level of devastation, the loss of life, again, tragically, we have — I have to confirm seven passengers deceased on that train. But the miracle of a few hundred pretty much walking off of that train last night — I was out here last night and saw many of the people who came off of that train.

    The cars themselves, it is beyond anything that you would see in a disaster movie. The cars are mangled, turned upside down, turned sideways, the engine separated, and it just must have been a horrific scene and experience for those passengers. So — but we have an incredible level of coordination on the ground here, Philadelphia Fire Department in command of the scene, police department supporting Department of Homeland Security as a part of the Philadelphia Police Department.

    Amtrak, state police, NTSB now on the ground conducting their investigation, so it's a full-blown investigation. We're still searching for some of the passengers from the manifest that we have — Amtrak provided to us. So everybody is doing what they're supposed to be doing, and we're praying for all these passengers.


    And that's what I wanted to ask you about. How is the rescue effort going at this point? I mean, how many are still unaccounted for?


    Well, we don't have a hard count on that, and the reason is because the manifest, of course, that's the number of people who actually bought a ticket. That doesn't necessarily mean all of those individuals actually were on the train. Obviously, sometimes, people miss trains.

    Some of the Amtrak personnel could have gotten on the train, you know, without — obviously, they don't have tickets necessarily for their own personnel. So we're comparing the manifest to all the individuals that we transported last night or people who checked in at the hospitals, either on their own or that we took them, and so that is the step-by-step process that we're going through.

    And, again, unfortunately, seven confirmed dead, and we're going through the notification process with their families.


    Mayor Nutter, we just learned the NTSB confirming that the train was going 106 miles an hour on this stretch of track before this happened. What's your reaction to that? I mean, this is a — this is your city.


    Well, there are, obviously, regulations from an Amtrak standpoint which I believe is governed by the Federal Railway Administration. So, I mean, it's not like the city of Philadelphia government is in charge of Amtrak.

    But the tragedy took place here. It's my understanding that that stretch of the track and that curve has a 50-mile-per-hour speed limit on it.




    So, obviously, something went completely wrong in that particular case. I will leave it, obviously, to NTSB to determine why that happened, how did that happen. I think they're still gathering that information.

    But, I mean, that would certainly explain — that level of speed at that part of the track would certainly explain why there was so much devastation to this particular train and how it separated from the engine and all the other things that we have seen down at the crash site — or the derailment site, rather. So that's NTSB's jurisdiction. I will take them at their word.


    What sort of other concerns have you had before this accident about Amtrak, about the tracks, about the infrastructure associated with this rail line in your city?


    Well, I mean, look, I'm a huge Amtrak supporter of this entire corridor and of Amtrak as an organization.

    I have been on that 7:10 train out of Washington, D.C. I'm on Amtrak all the time, going to New York or Washington, or I have gone from Philadelphia to New York to D.C. and back to Philadelphia. But, today, of course, is a day where we're really trying to be respectful to the families.

    I would love to talk about infrastructure and public policy and all those kinds of issues, but, for the moment, we're going to hold our respect for these families and those who are injured and leave the policy and the politics to another day.


    Mayor Michael Nutter, we thank you for joining us, and I know our hearts go out to those who are affected.


    Thank you, Judy.


    Thank you.

    And we will hear from a top federal safety investigator after the news summary.