'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, May 13th, 2015
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Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: May 13, 2015
Guest: Michael Nutter, Samantha Phillips
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. It`s great to have
you there, man. Great reporting this hour. Great.
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home as well for staying with us for the
This orange box, this is called an event data recorder. When there`s
a transportation accident, that is the thing that usually holds the answers
-- or at least some of them -- about what went wrong.
We tend to call this thing a black box. As you see, it is fluorescent
orange. And that makes sense. And they want to be able to find it more
easily in the case of a wreck. We are pretty familiar with the fact that
airplanes are typically equipped with data recorders like this, flight data
But the one you see here is a locomotive data recorder. It`s a
similar piece of equipment, but this is the kind that`s installed on
trains, and that specific one is the locomotive data recorder that was
pulled from Amtrak train 188 today, which is traveling from D.C. to New
York at this time last night, when it suddenly derailed and crashed while
rounding a curve on its way out of Philadelphia. Seven people confirmed
dead at this point, more than 200 people injured.
As to what happened and why, what we`ve learned substantively about
the derailment so far today has largely come from that data recorder.
Investigators confirming that the recorder indicates that the train at the
time of the derailment was traveling at more than 100 miles an hour,
through that curve. That`s more than twice the posted speed limit for that
stretch of track.
NTSB officials say the train reached a peak speed of 106 miles per
hour, the train`s engineer then, according to the data on this recorder
tried to apply the brakes in the very last few seconds before the
derailment and the crash, but hitting the brakes when it was going 106, the
train was only slowed down to about 102 miles an hour, before the data
recorder stopped recording, apparently because the train at that point
derailed and crashed.
NBC News tonight has been able to confirm the identity of the train`s
engineer. So, the locomotive engineer is the person driving the train, the
conductor is the person who`s in the passenger compartment of the train
mostly and overseeing the other staff that interacts with passengers. That
would be the conductor, but the locomotive engineer is the person driving
the train. He`s been identified now as a 32-year-old Amtrak employee who
is believed to live in New York City.
So far, the locomotive engineer does not appear to be actively
cooperating with the investigators in this incident. He was brought to the
police station after the crash last night, but he reportedly declined to
give a statement to Philadelphia law enforcement officials before he
eventually left the station along with his lawyer.
Federal investigators have been on scene at the site of the derailment
all day today. They said they recovered not only the train`s data
recorder, but also a forward facing video camera that is mounted at the
front of the train. That may provide yet further valuable data about what
happened here and why. Both of those devices were initially sent to Amtrak
headquarters in nearby Wilmington, Delaware, to have their data downloaded.
But then after going to the Amtrak headquarters first, those devices
then were sent to the NTSB lab in D.C. for further analysis.
Earlier today, investigators also removed some pieces of the track.
You can see here on this flatbed, pieces of the track that appear to have
been relevant to the incident last night. The segments of track were
hauled away by truck today. They have been moved to a secure location,
where they will be analyzed by federal investigators, the locomotive to the
engine and a number of the derailed passenger cars are also being removed
to a secure location, we are told tonight that one of the Amtrak passenger
cars has already been removed from the site.
When the sun rose today, that was essentially the first opportunity
for local officials and first responders to really see the full extent of
the damage. Last night, in our initial coverage, we had lights from
helicopters and from flashlights and from news cameras, but we couldn`t
really get a whole sense of the damage.
When the sun rose today, we can see all seven cars at this passenger
train derailed. The engine was relatively new engine. It came into
service just last year apparently. But the engine also itself derailed.
One of the very difficult questions that remains even at this hour is
whether all the people on board that train have been found.
The death toll from this accident as I said, it stands at seven people
tonight. At least eight more people are in critical condition. And some
of those folks in critical condition are said to be tough shape. As the
day has gone on, a number of people who were killed in this accident have
been identified by their families or by their employers.
But local officials have stopped short by saying the search for more
victims is over. Sniffer dogs have been brought in to comb through the
accident scene, comb through the wreckage. The search zone, in terms for
looking for victims was extended earlier today to account for people who
might have been thrown out of the train.
But it does remain a question tonight, a very difficult question, as
to whether this is now just a full on investigation into what went wrong in
this crash, or whether this is still an active search and recovery mission,
if not a search and rescue mission.
Joining us now is the mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter.
Mayor Nutter, it`s been a long and difficult 24 hours for you. Thank
you very much for being with us.
MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER (D), PHILADELPHIA: Sure. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me just ask, first of all, you`ve been -- you`ve been
very good letting people know the status of the investigation, the latest
that you understand about the scale of the problem. Is this still a
recovery operation? Are you confident the cars have been searched, all the
victims have been found?
NUTTER: Rachel, we`re still in a search and recovery mode. We want
to make sure that we have, in fact, accounted for all of the people that
may have been on that train, as I think you were trying to indicate in your
earlier segment, a number of people bought tickets, that does not
necessarily mean that all of those individuals actually were on the train.
So, we`re trying to sort through all of that data and information
using the Amtrak manifest of customers, and people who bought tickets,
versus the folks that we served, and transported last night, with
incredible support by the Philadelphia fire department, police department,
EMS personnel, SEPTA, mass transit organization providing buses. There was
a massive life saving operation last night. Unfortunately, we did lose
seven Americans. And for that, we are deeply sorry.
MADDOW: In terms of the operations that continue onsite, do you have
anything you need? Is there anything else you need in terms of support or
logistics? I know just getting light on the scene was a real challenge in
the initial response last night. Is there more that you need that you
NUTTER: No, we have all the resources that we need, and we did get
those -- what we call kind of light cannons. We got -- there was a ton of
light out there later in the evening. We have to make sure the scene was
secure and stable. That the train had itself cooled down and it was safe
to have personnel at that part of the site.
But Governor Wolf has been here two nights in a row. We`ve had
numerous members of Congress both from the House and the Senate, the true
bipartisan response to all of this. We have an incredible array of public
servants and agencies, local, state and federal working in partnership.
We have all the resources that we need, but we`re going to continue
the search and rescue. Just to be sure, as best we can possibly be, that
we have accounted for every person that we think might have been on that
MADDOW: In terms of why this happened? Do we know yet if the
engineer, the locomotive engineer who`s actually driving the train, do we
know if he has spoken with investigators, if investigators have had the
access to him that they want to have to him? Do we know -- he`s got a key
role in explaining what happened here, do we know what position he`s at
with regard to the investigation now?
NUTTER: Well, all I can tell you about the engineer is that he was
injured. He was in the engine compartment. Obviously, that engine
separated as your recreation video shows, separated from the rest of the
train, tumbled over a number of times. He was injured but he was treated
for his injuries. He then -- police did interview him. And then he was
I think the issue now is, what did he say? I don`t know exactly what
he said, quite honestly what he may have said is, I don`t want to say
anything. And at that point, we have to let the person go.
As the investigation moves on, you know, that situation may change.
And -- but at this point in time, I know that the NTSB and possibly other
agencies at some point will want to talk with him, and hopefully he will
MADDOW: The NTSB process is a slow, and scientific and deliberate
one. It`s part of the reason they speak with authority when they pronounce
a cause when something like this happens.
MADDOW: Is it your feeling that everybody, including yourself, should
wait until the NTSB has completed everything all together? Or at some
point, do you think it would be safe to say what happened here, and why,
and who is at fault if someone clearly is at fault?
NUTTER: Well, the first is as you said, the NTSB is the best at what
they do. And everyone respects their work, the thoroughness of their work,
and it does take some time.
But what we have experienced, they were on the ground about 4:00 or
5:00 a.m. this morning. Twelve hours later, they were putting out some
very important factual information as a result of getting information from
their event recorders or the black box.
What was the speed of the train? What was the rating for speed at
that curve? And talking about the PTC system and the like. So, that
information came out pretty quickly, but the NTSB personnel indicated, and
the board member on the ground that they`ll have a series of releases of
We certainly want to have more information before any judgment. There
are just some facts here. If you are going 106 miles an hour on a 50-mile
an hour rated curve, you got to figure something bad is going to happen,
and is at least contributing factor to the devastation we saw and the loss
of lives and all the injuries.
We don`t know exactly what else was going on, I don`t know what was
going on with the engineer, did something else happen in the engine
compartment, and all of those other questions remain to be answered.
But this is a tragedy. Seven people lost their lives. Hundreds of
people injured and traumatized by a horrific accident that clearly could
have resulted in even greater loss of life. It`s amazing that more than
200 people were able to walk away from that train accident last night.
Again, the graphic pictures that you have on your newscast, viewers
can appreciate that it was very difficult for those passengers and they
were still able, most of them to walk away.
MADDOW: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, a man under incredible
pressure right now, including for your time -- thank you so much. I really
appreciate taking the time to explain to us.
NUTTER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Take good care of yourself through this, Mr. Mayor.
NUTTER: Sure, I will.
MADDOW: Thank you.
NUTTER: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. There`s much more ahead including a fix that
investigators are already saying would have prevented this crash and should
have been in place any day now. It just wasn`t there yet. It`s incredible
information and that`s next.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: So, it turns out there`s very specific news tonight, not just
on what went wrong in Philadelphia with this train crash last night,
there`s specific news about why this train crash wasn`t prevented even
though we know exactly how to prevent that kind of crash.
We`ve also got other news coming up from outside this Philadelphia
story. There`s a lot to come tonight.
Please stay with us. It`s a big night in news.
MADDOW: OK. I will warn you here on this subject, I am having a
feeling. Fair warning.
OK, here it goes -- in September of 2008, the city of Los Angeles had
its worst train accident ever, it was in L.A. This was some of the NBC
News national coverage at the time of that accident. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The Metrolink commuter train may have been carrying as many
as 350 passengers and it left Los Angeles less than an hour earlier, when
it slammed into a freight train in Chatsworth, a suburb about 20 miles from
This passenger was all the way in the back of the last car.
PASSENGER: It was like crashing and everything. It was glass,
plastic, people were flying, I was flying. Thank God I did not have a
table in front of me. I flew into my friend`s lap.
REPORTER: Those in the first car were not as fortunate, as the car
derailed and the inside of the passenger cabin was crushed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can actually see the metro link engine pushed
inside of the passenger car. It must have been a very traumatic crash.
REPORTER: Friends and relatives rushed to local hospitals. Some
learning their loved ones were lost.
RELATIVE: One of my uncles is really injured. And my other uncle, he
didn`t make it.
REPORTER: There`s no word yet how or why this happened except to note
the obvious -- there is only one track here, and horribly both trains were
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Both trains were on the one track. What happened in that
Metrolink commuter train crash in L.A. in 2008, what happened there was
human error. The engineer who was operating that commuter train with 350
people on board missed a signal.
The train was operating the way it should have. The signaling system
was operating the way it should have. The track was intact. There was
nothing physically wrong with any part of the rail system that day.
But there was something wrong with the engineer. The engineer was on
his cell phone, he was texting. Because he was on his cell phone texting,
he therefore missed that signal that was telling him there was another
train on the track ahead and he should not proceed down that track.
The engineer missed that signal, and that Metrolink train he was
driving smashed on the freight train and 25 people were killed, 25 people
killed, including the Metrolink engineer who was on his cell phone.
Twenty-five fatalities is a huge number of fatalities, right? More than
100 people injured badly enough in that crash to be taken to the hospital.
It was the worst rail incident in L.A. history, and we know exactly why it
That was September 2008. By the following month, by October 2008,
believe it or not, Congress actually stepped up and did something to try to
stop something like that from ever happening again. Within five weeks of
that crash, Congress passed this act, the Rail Safety Improvement Act of
And it mandated that all rail lines in the U.S., passenger rail lines,
commuter rail lines, freight rail lines, everybody, would have to get just
slightly more modern -- and not like, you know, hydrogen powered cars and
jet packs and futuristically hypermodern stuff, just some basic systematic
safety upgrades that would take advantage of the fact that we are now a
society that has things like computing machines and GPS. This is not the
most high-tech stuff.
What they mandated for the U.S. rail system is something called
positive train control. It`s a very basic avoidance system that reduces
the risk that something like stupid operator error or a train conductor
having a heart attack at the engine, or the train conductor falling asleep
or something. It reduces the chance that something unfortunate but human
and predictable like that could result in a train derailment or a train
Basically, positive train control is a system that monitors speed
limits and track signals electronically. It signals to the train engineer,
if it seems like something is wrong, if the train seems to have not noticed
a signal or if the train is speeding, right? If the train engineer doesn`t
respond to that signal, positive train control as a system can then
override the human. Override that locomotive engineer and automatically
slow the train down or stop the train essentially by remote control.
This sort of system does require equipment upgrades to trains, it
requires putting a lot of basic train infrastructure essentially on the
grid, it requires some GPS technology. But again, this is not like
learning to live on Mars, right? This is basic kind of Atari level
computerized safety systems for America`s trains.
And they passed that law five weeks after that terrible Metrolink
crash in 2008 that killed 25 people in L.A. It passed in 2008. They set
this cushy, fat deadline of more than seven years for our country to
actually put this system in place. The deadline by which all major rail
lines in the U.S. are supposed to have positive is the end of this year,
December 31st, 2015.
And, you know, the rail industry like every industry, they don`t like
being told what to do, they`ve been lobbying hard to push that deadline
back even further. Seven years is too fast for them to implement that
system nationwide. They want more time. They want even more years. They
have found a lot of sympathetic ears in Congress in terms of legislators
who might want to give them more time.
But even if Congress doesn`t extend it, if the existing 2015 deadline
holds, the existing 2015 deadline was still too late for these poor people.
This is a Metro North commuter train crash that happened December 1st,
I remembered that date. I didn`t have to look it up today because one
of the people who died in that train crash was a sound engineer who worked
here at the "Today" show. He was on the train that morning coming to work
early, because he was going to be helping set up the broadcast for the
delivery of the big Rockefeller Center Christmas tree that we get delivered
here every year right at the beginning of the year. His name was James
Lovell (ph). He worked at the "Today" show for 20 years. He was one of
four people who was killed that morning in that train crash.
In that crash, it is a actually a miracle that no more than four
people didn`t die. Unlike the L.A. crash that had had happened five years
earlier, this one was one train crashing, it didn`t hit anything. It was
one train derailment.
And there are actually some eerie similarities between that Metro
North crash in 2013 and what happened last night in Philly. The train was
about the same size in both instances, but the Metro North train that
crashed in 2013 and the Amtrak train last night. Both of them had seven
cars. In both cases, it was a single train that doesn`t appear to have hit
anything else but the trains, nevertheless, derailed. In both instances,
both of these derailments happened on sharp curves in the tracks.
The Metro North derailment in 2013 happened on one of the sharpest
turns in the whole Metro North system. That Metro North crash happened
just north of Manhattan, at a curve in the river, it`s called Spuyten
Duyvil, it`s technically in the Bronx.
Part of the reason I said that a lot more people very easily could
have been killed in that crash is because the reason those tracks curve
dramatically at that Metro North site, the site of the derailment, is
because of how close the rail line gets to the river there. When that
train derailed, those cars -- see the water at the bottom of your screen --
those cars went spilling toward the river. Had they gone into the river,
we may not just have seen blunt force crash injuries that we see among the
passengers on that train. We might have also have mass drownings.
Both that Metro North crash in 2013 on that curve and that Amtrak
crash last night in northeast Philly was -- which was also on a very sharp
curve, that was also one of the sharpest curves in the whole system of
rails that Amtrak travels, in both of those cases, we had trains traveling
alone on a sharp curve. And conclusively, in the case of the Metro North
crash of 2013, and at least preliminarily in this train crash last night in
Philadelphia, it appears that the cause was the same. It appears that what
caused the derailment was the train traveling at a very high rate of speed
into a very sharp curve.
We do not yet know why that happened last night in Philadelphia in
this derailment that claimed seven lives already and may yet claimed more.
In the Metro North crash in 2013 that killed four people, the NTSB
determined conclusively that the reason the train engineer was speeding at
more than 80 miles an hour going into that 30-mile-an-hour curve in Spuyten
Duyvil was because the train engineer was tired. He wasn`t necessarily
He told investigators he was zoning out. He was the guy who had sleep
apnea, so he didn`t sleep well ever. He had gotten up at 3:30 that morning
that day to start a shift. He had not been working that very early morning
shift for very long. It seems like maybe his body was just not used to it
and he self-described the problem. He said he basically zoned out with his
hand on the throttle, he was going 80 heading into that 30 mile an hour
curve. And more than 100 people were sent to the hospital and four people
lost their lives.
And yes, Metro North had said that they would eventually get around to
installing this positive train control system. They were working on it.
That positive train control system would have overridden him zoning out on
the tracks and slowed the train down on its own. They were working on it.
They were going to get that in place. But this crash happened in 2013.
The deadline to get that system in place wasn`t until the end of 2015. So,
well, what was the rush?
The NTSB concluded in that crash that had the positive train control
system been in effect on that December morning in 2013 when the Rockefeller
Center freaking Christmas tree was being delivered in New York City and
James Lovell was on his way to work, had that system been hurried up and
put into effect on that stretch of track, that train crash never would have
happened and those people would not have died.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER HART, ACTING NTSB CHAIRMAN: Contributing to the accident
was the absence of positive train control or PTC. All of these deaths and
injuries were preventable. PTC would have prevented this derailment by
automatically applying the brakes even when the engineer did not. For
decades, the NTSB has repeatedly called for the implementation of PTC.
Thankfully, Congress has mandated the use of this technology by the end of
next year. Thank you, Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, thank you, Congress. But no rush.
We are really good at investigating these kinds of disasters when they
happen. We find out why they happened and we then find out what would have
prevented them from happening.
Positive train control, this whole safety system that we know how to
do, it would have prevented the fatal commuter train crash in Massachusetts
where the train operator fell asleep. It would have prevented the
Metrolink crash in Los Angeles. It would have prevented this fatal
commuter train crash in Massachusetts where the train operator fell asleep.
It would have prevented that Metro North crash at Spuyten Duyvil just north
of Manhattan where the tired train conductor zoned out and four people
And if it bears out that what happened last night in Philadelphia is
that for some reason, heading into that 50-mile-an-hour curve, that train
was being driven at over 100 miles an hour, and the breaks were applied way
too late deep into the curve, only three seconds before the derailment
flung those cars off those rails, then, yes, positive train control would
have stopped that crash, too, and save all of those lives in Philadelphia,
But the system is not in place yet. Amtrak has been slowly getting
that system in place, piece by piece, you know, patching the funding
together, doing bits of track and bits of track there. They got positive
train control in place along some of the track and some of the Northeast
corridor but not everywhere, and not in Philly, not where the plane crash
happened last night. And so, all of those people died.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT SUMWALT, NTSB BOARD MEMBER: It is not installed for this area
where the accident occurred, where the derailment occurred. That type of a
system, we call it a positive train control system. That type of system it
is designed to enforce the civil speed to keep the train below its maximum
And so, we have called for positive train control for many, many
years. It`s on our most wanted list. Congress has mandated that it be
installed by the end of this year.
So, we are very keen on positive train control. Based on what we know
right now, we feel that had such a system been installed in this section of
track, this accident would not have occurred.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Had the system been installed, this crash would not have
This is not a mystery and this is also not hard. This is not rocket
science, right? This is not desalinating the ocean. This is not curing
cancer. This is something we know how to do, and we`ve done it in patches,
pieces of track here and there.
And we also know that we need to do it. It`s no mystery here, because
what we need to do is something that we need to do concerning our nation`s
infrastructure, honestly as a nation we really can`t be bothered to get
stuff like this done. It`s almost like our political system is designed to
fail our infrastructure.
I mean, the people, American people, left, right and center, want
infrastructure investment. It`s one of the few things that all Americans
agree by large margins, regardless of where we all coming from
ideologically, we all agree that we should invest more in our
infrastructure. We ought to upgrade our basic national infrastructure,
especially around transportation, whether that`s roads, and bridges, and
highways, or trains, or airports, or whatever, Americans would like to see
that stuff taken care of and improved, it seems like a core government
function, we would all like to work. It benefits us all.
Politicians, however, don`t like voting for it. Especially in cases
like this rail safety stuff, where there are corporate interests who want
it not to happen. I mean, on this positive train control thing, industry`s
been complaining for years that even the seven-year rollout was far too
quick for them. They`re pushing in Congress now to not have to put the
system in place until the year 2020. Yes, what`s the rush?
And it happens on all these issues. Yesterday, just hours before the
Amtrak derailment, the American Petroleum Institute sued to block new
safety rules for oil trains specifically. They want more years before they
have to retrofit unsafe cars that are being used to transport crude oil
around the country, the ones that have this nasty habit of blowing up
everywhere. They want more time to deal with that problem, because the
status quo is OK with them.
The new oil train rules would also require them to have an electronic
braking system. It`s not that different a safety concept than the whole
positive a train control thing than rail more broadly. But the people who
make money shipping oil by rail would prefer to do it as cheaply as
possible. They`re not interested in that new braking system thing. So,
they`re suing to not have to do it.
They don`t mind things the way they are now, despite the occasional
apocalyptic fireball, don`t rush them. What`s the hurry?
The American people are voting with their feet. People want to ride
the train. Amtrak ridership, particularly in the Northeast corridor has
been going up and up and up, setting a new ridership record every year
since the year 2000.
Even as, honestly, as an Amtrak fan, I can tell you, the service has
been getting worse. It`s been getting less on time. It`s been getting
more expensive with each passing year, because the system is starved of
funds and it`s not getting any younger, and is a complicated moving piece
of working infrastructure, it keeps getting older and we keep not investing
and fixing it, and improving it and it keeps getting worse.
But Americans want to be able to travel this way, because we need this
form of travel as a country. We just do. There`s a reason every other
country in the world has this too, and mostly has it better. You need to
be able to travel by train.
Just in the Northeast corridor, which is the most heavily trafficked
rail in the country, they say for 2015, they needed about $2.8 billion in
terms of capital maintenance, they got about a billion dollar less than
that this year to operate.
Today in the House, hours after this fatal Amtrak derailment in
Philly, which the NTSB already says probably could have been prevented with
these safety improvements that we know that we need to do and we just
haven`t gotten around to yet as a nation, just hours after that crash
today, an appropriations committee in the House voted to cut funding for
Amtrak because they don`t like voting for things like Amtrak.
There`s no mystery about this disaster in L.A. There`s no mystery
about this disaster in New York. There`s no mystery about this disaster in
Philadelphia, and what caused all of those lives in all of those places,
there will be no mystery about the next one that happens, just like this.
We know what we need to do. It`s just our government won`t make it happen.
One last thought on this: when we heard today first from anonymous
sources and officially from NTSB that the speed of that train heading into
the curve was over 100 miles an hour, there was this collective gasp, a
sort of horrified recognition among Americans that that speed must have
been what caused the crash, we`re still awaiting the full investigation,
the final results from the NTSB, but when we heard today, this idea of the
train going over 100 miles an hour, down those tracks ratty old tracks
through Northeast Philly, we almost intrinsically knew as Americans that
that spelled catastrophe, that that was the problem, that something was
wrong with that, 100 miles an hour, 106 miles per hour? Clearly that was
the problem, we knew it.
Between the cities of Barcelona and Madrid, the average train speed is
154 miles per hour. That`s not the top speed. That`s the average speed.
Trains between Tokyo and Osaka go 200 miles an hour.
For us, the richest, most powerful nation on Earth, the average train
speed on our Northeast corridor which is our showpiece for our high-speed
trains, our average speed is 68 miles per hour. And we know intrinsically
with every breath, that if you go over 100 miles an hour, we know even this
early that that will mean the engine and passenger cars will end up flying
off the rails and crumbling like soda cans and people will die, because we
can`t handle that kind of speed here.
We are a great nation that has allowed the world-class national
infrastructure that our grandparents built and our parents handed down to
us to erode and suffer and starve to the point that it is decrepit and
This is a failure of governance. This is on Congress` head.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUTTER: If you`re going 106 miles an hour on a 50-mile-an-hour-rated
curve, you got to figure something bad is going to happen. And is at least
a contributing factor to the devastation we saw, and the loss of lives and
all the injuries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter speaking on this show just
moments ago, saying speed in this case was at least a contributing factor
to the devastation we`re seeing tonight in Philadelphia.
Joining us now is NBC News correspondent Tom Costello, who`s in
Tom, thanks for being with us.
TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESONDENT: Yes, I got to tell you, the
mayor really kind of changed his tune over the last 90 minutes or so,
because earlier in the evening, he said that the engineer had to be an
idiot, he said the behavior was very risky and completely inappropriate.
He really laid it down. I mean, he blasted the engineer.
And then I witnessed what happened. What happened was the NTSB board
member pulled him aside, pulled his PIO aside and said, you can`t go down
this road yet, you cannot be already judging the engineer. You can`t be --
you know, the entire scene of the judicial process here, we don`t know if
this engineer had a medical issue or if there was something else going on
that might have contributed to the crash. We don`t know if there`s some
sort of a mechanical issue.
You saw the mayor become much more circumspect when he did the
interview with you. I interviewed him, he was much more low keyed. He
really changed his tune.
But, clearly, as he said to me, emotions are very high with people who
really are very concerned about this train`s speed and what may or may not
have been happening there in the cab.
MADDOW: So, Tom, the NTSB is clear, and they feel like they have a
clear factual basis from that data recorder, to say that they know that --
they know what the speed of the train was, they can say circumstantially
that the speed of the train was inappropriate for that section of track.
But they have no reason to speculate as to the cause for the speed.
As to why the train was going that fast.
COSTELLO: You know, I covered the NTSB for 11 years. They don`t
speculate. They will lay out the facts as they have them, when they have
them, and they`re very transparent in that regard.
But -- if the public at large wants to draw conclusions, that`s up to
the public at large. But the NTSB simply gathers information, releases
factual information as it has it, but then ultimately, it goes down this
very methodical and scientific path to come up with the conclusion that
could take weeks, months, or even in some cases even more than a year.
You know, there`s a very famous case about 18 to 20 years ago, where
they had another train accident, and they thought they understand what the
accident cause was, only to learn later that the engineer was diabetic, he
couldn`t see colors and therefore wasn`t seeing the change in the signals.
COSTELLO: But nobody knew that he was diabetic, he didn`t tell
anybody, his doctors didn`t even know he was an engineer. So, it wasn`t
until they found the diabetic medicine did they realize what was the cause.
So, sometimes it`s not what you see right up front. We`ll have to see how
this plays out.
MADDOW: In terms of all the investigation goes forward, clearly
talking to the engineer will be a key part of the investigation, right? He
will have to be part of the way they investigate this. The NTSB saying
today that they haven`t spoken to him yet.
MADDOW: In your experience covering this sort of this, is it unusual
they haven`t talked to him yet?
COSTELLO: Well, here`s what`s a little bit unusual is that we are --
we`ve heard from law enforcement sources they haven`t been able to get an
in-depth interview, and the NTSB has not done an in-depth interview. But
there seems to be a little bit of gray, a wiggle room in there. We`re not
sure if maybe they have a very -- police had a casual conversation with him
at the hospital.
It`s not unusual to wait a day or two, after the -- to get the
emotions to settle down, he may want to consult with his attorney or his
union rep. That`s not unusual, before you actually sit down very often a
union rep`s office, and you have the formal interview with the NTSB.
You may have a separate interview with police if this has becoming a
criminal investigation. Keep in mind, the NTSB`s investigation is not
criminal. It is simply to figure out what happened, and try to ensure that
something like this doesn`t happen again.
MADDOW: NBC`s Tom Costello -- Tom, that`s very, very clarifying.
Thanks for helping us understand that. We appreciate it.
COSTELLO: You bet, sure.
All right. We got lots more ahead. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: This has been a jam-packed news day. We`re going to have the
latest coming up on some of the days other stories, other than Philly,
including a vote by Republicans in Congress late today that went really
under the radar but really does deserve some national attention. We`re
going to have that story coming up.
As well as the latest on the ground in Philly, including the city`s
head of emergency management. She`s here live in just a moment.
There`s a lot still to come tonight. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: As we first started to cover this story last night, we
started to hear from the first survivors of the cash, honestly, as we got a
sight of the crash site, one of the worries was that there might still be
survivors or even just bodies trapped in those destroyed cars. Last night,
first responders recovered three bodies onboard the wrecked train, and two
bodies nearby, people who had been thrown from the train.
Overnight last night, one of the critically injured passengers who had
been taken to Temple University Hospital succumbed to his wounds and died
in hospital and became the sixth known fatally. And then, today, just as
we feared, they did today discover another body on the train, it brought
the confirmed death toll thus far to seven.
The victims who`ve been identified by friends and families so far are
this man, Abid Gilani, who was a senior vice president at Wells Fargo.
Also, Jim Gaines, who was an award winning video software architect for the
"Associated Press". Also, Justin Zemser, who is a young midshipman at the
U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, he was on leave and heading back home to
where he was from, heading back home to Queens, New York. Also, Rachel
Jacobs, who was CEO of a tech company called ApprenNet.
City officials say around 200 people were treated at Philadelphia
hospitals since the derailment, Temple University Hospital in Philly
admitted the most patients last night. They admitted 54 people in total
last night, 23 of those 54 are still being treated now, including eight
people who are currently listed in critical condition at Temple.
Dr. Herbert Cushing is chief medical officer there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. HERBERT CUSHING, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: I was startled to
hear as we ran down the list of the patients this afternoon, almost
everybody had rib fractures. The rib fractures tell me they rattled around
in the train cars a lot, to get a lot of rib fractures.
REPORTER: How would you characterize this as a test for
Philadelphia`s medical infrastructure? Did it work out OK?
CUSHING: Yes, it did. I was very pleased. Things came together last
night very well, in a few hours, the trauma team, the doctors and nurses
that trained to do this, responded wonderfully. So, I think it was a test,
and I think we passed it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The chief medical officer at Temple University Hospital,
which is the hospital that has handled the lion`s share of these scores of
injuries in this mass casualty event in Philadelphia.
Joining us now is Samantha Phillips. She`s director of emergency
management for the city of Philadelphia. Her office has been coordinating
the city`s response to the derailment since last night.
Samantha Phillips, thank you so much for being with us.
SAMANTHA PHILLIPS, PHILADELPHIA DIR. OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Thanks
for having me.
MADDOW: It`s now almost exactly 24 hours since the crash. What right
now is the most pressing thing that your office is working on right now?
PHILLIPS: We`re actually starting to de-mode a little bit. And so
we`re trying to get back into normal operation to the extent possible. We
are still finalizing some reconciliation of the person data. So, working
with our hospital community, certainly Amtrak on trainman fest information,
tracking where we sent patients, and then, of course, working on family
assistance center operations with Amtrak.
MADDOW: How large is that problem? How many people are in a status
right now where you don`t know where they are or if, in fact, they were on
PHILLIPS: I`m happy to say that the problem has reduced greatly over
the course of the day. We`ve had a lot of luck in matching all of these
different data sources. We do still have a few problems that we`re working
and want to make sure everyone is safely accounted for.
Those who haven`t called into Amtrak`s 1-800 number. They should do
that. That`s 1-800-523-9101. We really do want to make sure we hear from
everybody if you`re safe and with your loved ones. Please just let us know
so that we can move on and make sure we`ve got everybody accounted for.
MADDOW: Not to press you too much, but are we talking about a
ballpark, a hundred people or more than that, a dozen people or less than
PHILLIPS: No. Yes, it`s far less. We`re sort of in the sort of high
single digits, low double digits at this point just doing some final
counting of people.
MADDOW: I have to ask, last night after the train derailment, it
started to become clear how big of an incident this was, how did your
office or whoever did, alert local hospitals that they were about to
receive dozens of patients, maybe even hundreds of patients, people seeking
treatments all at once.
Logistically, did you have a plan for how something like that worked?
PHILLIPS: Yes. We had a couple of plans that we had to implement
last night. Coincidentally, we`ve just been in the process of finalizing
the city`s mass casualty plan and Monday, we did a workshop and exercise of
that plan. So, we were really well prepared for something that happened
So, we do many things. One, working with our fire department who
coordinated emergency medical services. We provide notification to
hospitals. And really, once you see you have an incident the size we saw
on Tuesday night, it`s really just about kind of launching the system,
getting as many resources and services as possible.
It`s always easy to stand things down and recall things. But we
wanted to make sure we had everything on scene to deal with what could have
been -- and ended up being hundreds of people who needed some support.
MADDOW: Samantha Philips, people watching you and Mayor Nutter and
others in Philadelphia responding that, there are kids all over the country
thinking maybe I want to be a director of emergency management for a city
some day, watching you guys do this crucial work at this crucial time --
thanks for your work. Thanks for helping us understand.
PHILLIPS: Thanks very much.
All right. We`ve got more ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Obviously, today`s news dominated by the Philadelphia Amtrak
crash. But just a couple of things to get you up to date in terms of what
else is going on in the news.
We`ve had eyes all day today in Texas where large swaths of that state
are flooded and flooding as rain continues to lash Texas. Parts of Texas
got as much as 10 inches of rain over a three-hour period. That was in one
section of Houston today. Officials in north Texas have decided to release
water from some Texas lakes in order to avoid breaching dams on those
bodies of water trying to avoid catastrophic flooding from breached
National Weather Service issuing flash flood warnings for portions of
Texas all across that state. We`re going to keep you posted on further
developments as we keep watching that.
Also in political news today, in Washington late today, House
Republicans succeeded in passing their latest abortion ban. That was an
almost 100 percent party line vote. They passed in the House today a bill
to ban abortions nationwide federally after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The
House passed this bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks. It was a
vote of 241-184.
Even if the bill does pass the Senate, which is hard to believe that
it would, this bill will not become law under this president. The White
House has formally threatened to veto the bill if it reaches President
Obama`s desk. The White House pretty secretary today went so far as to
refer to the bill as "disgraceful". So, it`s not going to become law, but
it doesn`t mean that it`s not still a top priority for House Republicans
We`ve got much more ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: It`s been just over 24 hours since an Amtrak train derailed
and crashed in north Philadelphia. Seven people were killed. We`ve
learned a lot about this disaster in the last 24 hours. Investigators
today said the train approached the 50-mile-an-hour curve going 106 miles
We know the brakes were applied, but far too late. The train only
slowed to 102 miles per hour before the data recorder stopped recording
because of the derailment and the crash.
An NTSB official said today this accident could have been prevented if
a system called positive train control had been in place. That system is
required by law everywhere in the U.S. by the end of his year, but it
wasn`t in place yet at the site of this crash last night.
Congress is mulling giving railroads even more time before they have
to put that system in place even though it`s known now that it would save
lives, including likely the lives lost last night.
That does it for us. Thanks very much for being with us tonight.
We`ll see you tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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