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NJ Transit disaster evokes memories of Amtrak 188 crash

The NJ Transit crash Thursday is the worst rail disaster in the region since an Amtrak train crashed in Philly.

The wreckage of Amtrak 188 after the derailment in May.

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Many of us ride trains every day, never questioning their safety. But recent accidents have shown a simple commute can suddenly become a disaster.

The scenes of suffering, injury and confusion after a NJ Transit commuter train plowed into Hoboken station were eerily familiar for Philly residents who recall the May 2015 crash of Amtrak 188 in Port Richmond.

Passengers aboard the NJ Transit train that crashed Thursday killing one and injuring 108said the train never slowed down.

In the case of Amtrak 188,just minutes after leaving Center City the train accelerated to more than 100 mph as it barreled through a curve with a 50-mph speed limit, hopping the tracks, killing eight and injuring more than 200 of the passengers and crewaboard.

The National Transportation Safety Board pinned the cause of the crash on driver distraction. Engineer Brandon Bostian was distracted by radio talk of a rock being thrown at the windshield of a SEPTA train traveling on nearby tracks at the time of the incident.

Bostian, who has never been criminally charged, forgot to slow down instead of speed up on the curve because he was concerned his train might get hit by a rock, the NTSB ruled in June. Civil lawsuits filed by victims' families are still pending.

The dead were not completely identified for days as the wounded were placed in various hospitals around Philly. Other victims included Philly celebrity chef Eli Kulp, who was left wheelchair-bound after his spinal cord was severed during the crash.

NTSB and Amtrak officials have since called for installing "Positive Train Control" on all tracks. Such technology detects if a train is traveling above the speed limit and automatically slows the train down, and would have prevented the Amtrak 188 crash, the NTSB said.

 

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