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April 03, 2016

Two dead after Amtrak train crashes, derails in Delaware County

35 taken to hospitals; NTSB investigating

Two people have died after an Amtrak train crashed and derailed in Delaware County Sunday morning.

The transportation agency said that Train 89, traveling from New York City to Savannah, Georgia, hit a backhoe that was on the tracks, derailing the lead engine of the train about 15 miles south of Philadelphia in Chester. 

According to Amtrak, there were 341 passengers and seven crew members on board. Authorities said emergency responders reported to the scene and 35 passengers were transported to local hospitals, all with non-life threatening injuries. 

Service between Wilmington and Philadelphia has been halted until further notice. Amtrak's "Keystone Service" between Harrisburg and New York is not affected.

Initially, Amtrak had suspended service between New York and Philadelphia, but officials said around noon Sunday that it had been restored.

Chester Fire Commissioner Travis Thomas confirmed in a press conference that two people had died. Thomas said the deceased were not passengers but would not provide further details about them. 

Passengers on the train were taken back to Philadelphia, said Stephen Gardner, executive vice president for Amtrak. 

Gardner said the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) would provide additional information at an unspecified time. The NTSB confirmed as much in a tweet.

SEPTA has also suspended service on the Wilmington-Newark Line. Alternate routes for commuters can be found on the agency's website.

Linton Holmes, 15, was a passenger on the train heading to his hometown of Wilson, North Carolina, when the accident occurred.

"We were on the train and everything was going smoothly," Holmes told reporters Sunday afternoon. "The train was just rumbling and the train got off track, I guess, and there was just dust everywhere."

He said there was an explosion and windows on the train burst. Bloody passengers walked down the aisles and a conductor came back to inform them someone had died, according to Holmes.

Ari Ne'eman, a disability rights activist heading to Washington after speaking at an event in New York, told the Associated Press he was in the second car at the time of the crash.

"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, 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, he 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."

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said his thoughts and prayers were with the families of those killed and that state officials were assisting Amtrak.

The incident Sunday comes less than a year after an Amtrak train derailed along the rails of Frankford Junction in Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring another 200.

In February, the NTSB released thousands of documents from their investigation into the derailment, including interviews with the passengers and the engineer, Brandon Bostian, as well as details about the injuries sustained by those on board. 

Amtrak said that family and friends of those on Train 89 can call their emergency hotline at 800-523-9101.

Limited train service was restored between Philadelphia and Wilmington Sunday afternoon and Amtrak confirmed that trains will operate regularly on Monday along the Northeast Corridor, with some delays. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.