CHESTER, Pa. – Authorities say an Amtrak train struck a piece of construction equipment just south of Philadelphia, and sources are reporting the crash led to at least two deaths.
In a statement, Amtrak said: “Northeast Corridor service between Wilmington and Philadelphia is suspended until early this afternoon. Keystone Service between New York and Harrisburg is not affected.”
Sources tell CBS Philly that two Amtrak employees were killed in the crash and that at least 16 people were taken to local hospitals to be treated for injuries.
Amtrak said Train 89 was heading from New York to Savannah, Georgia, when it struck a backhoe that was on the track in Chester, about 15 miles outside of Philadelphia.
The impact derailed the lead engine of the train. About 341 passengers and seven crew members were on board.
Local emergency responders were on the scene and the crash is being investigated.
Federal Railroad Administration officials had arrived at the scene, 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.
“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 evacuateing 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.”
Last May, an Amtrak train derailed near Philadelphia, killing eight people. Officials are still trying to determine the exact cause of that crash.
Last month, another Amtrak train derailed in Kansas, although no one was killed in that crash.