PoliticsNation, Wednesday, May 13th, 2015
Read the transcript from the Wednesday show
Show: POLITICS NATION
Date: May 13, 2015
Guest: Jerrold Nadler, Darrell Clarke, George Bibel, Kitty Higgins, Kitty
Higgins; John Goglia; Jeremy Wladis
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening. And thanks, Richard.
And thanks to you for tuning in.
We continue with breaking news on the Amtrak train that crashed. The NTSB
says the train was traveling over 100 miles per hour, double the speed
limit for that turn in a 50 mile-per-hour zone. Officials say the engineer
applied the brake just before the crash.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT SUMWALT, NTSB MEMBER: When the engineer induced brake application
was applied. The train was traveling at approximately 106 miles per hour.
Three seconds later, when the data to the recorders terminated, the train
speed was 102 miles per hour.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: If the train was speeding, there are still questions about why.
The mayor of Philadelphia says the train`s engineer has spoken to police.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, PHILADELPHIA: The engineer was injured, received
medical care, was then interviewed by the Philadelphia police department
and made whatever statement he may have made.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Also tonight, emergency crews digging through the wreckage,
hoping to locate anyone still trapped underneath the debris. The death
toll now at seven, with hundreds more injured. And at least two passengers
are reported missing.
Today newly released footage from surveillance cameras showed the images
from the crash. You can see the train falling off the tracks, surrounded
by flashes of light. Tonight big questions about exactly how and why that
happened. As the search in the wreckage continues.
We start on the ground in Philadelphia, with NBC`s Ayman Mohyeldin who is
near the crash site, and MSNBC national correspondent Joy Reid who is at
Temple University hospital.
Let`s start Ayman. What`s the latest on the recovery effort, Ayman?
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is still very much an
active scene here, Reverend. In fact, the NTSB just a while ago wrapped up
their press conference. And the word you hear time and time again is
timeline. They`re trying to piece together the timeline of what happened
in those fatal final minutes.
Now, the train left the station at 9:10. By 9:21 it had completely
derailed seven cars including that locomotive. And a lot of questions
surrounding the speed at the time it was entering that left turn not too
far away from where I am standing.
Now, as you were saying, the initial data suggests that it was going at
about a speed of 106 miles per hour. And at the time that the engineer
applied the emergency brake, the final data point collected was about 102
miles per hour. In either case, that is about double the speed of what was
authorized for the train to be making as it entered into that curve.
Now, officials here say they`re still collecting what is known as
perishable data. That is information that may not last very long. They
have taken the black box recorder out of the train. They have taken it to
Amtrak in order for it to be downloaded. It will then be taken to the NTSB
lab in Washington, D.C. where more information can be gathered.
Now, some of the information that is going to help in this investigation
includes the signals on the track. Was there any signal that may provide
critical information, as well as the actions of the engineer. They have
not yet, the NTSB has not yet spoken to the engineer. He was treated and
released from the hospital. But as of yet, they have not conducted any
interviews with either the engineer or the local crews that were on board
that Amtrak train that is going to happen within the next couple days.
Right now they said it is all about trying to get information here on the
Perhaps one piece of information that is important is that NTSB officials
say they have released the tracks back to Amtrak so that Amtrak can begin
repairing those tracks. Perhaps trying to get service flowing again. But
as of now, the NTSB did confirm they actually inspected the tracks where
this incident happened as early as yesterday. So by all measures, the
track was fine. By all measures at this point, there was no mechanical
problems with the tracks themselves. The questions, though, surrounding
the speed and initial data that is being recovered from that data, the
event recorder that was taken from the train -- Rev.
SHARPTON: Ayman, what is going on around you now? I understand some of
the executives from Amtrak has been on the scene?
MOHYELDIN: That is correct. We`ve learned as well from the officials
here, city officials that both the CEO and the chairman of Amtrak are on
the scene. They have been briefed about the conditions and on the ongoing
recovery efforts. We also know several various agencies involved from the
office of emergency management from Philadelphia as well.
This part of the street right here is flowing to normal traffic. Police
are on the scene trying to keep the situation controlled for both
pedestrians, media, and to the folks that are trying to bring in the heavy
equipment to try to get these pieces of the train off the tracks. The NTSB
did say that the carts, the seven cars as well as the locomotive will be
moved off the tracks. They`ll be taken to a secure location where the
investigation around them will continue.
But for the most part here, it is a scene of heavy work. There is still a
lot of work to be done in terms of identifying everybody, and getting, as
we are saying, getting those tracks released back to Amtrak so they can
begin their repair work and try to reopen this part of the northeast
corridor -- Rev.
SHARPTON: Let me go to you, Joy Reid. Joy, what is the scene like where
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, THE REID REPORT: Well, Rev., five different
hospitals in this area treated patients from that Amtrak train derailment
crash, including Temple university hospital behind me. We`re expecting to
see about six of the 23 remaining patients here at this hospital,
potentially released tonight. And we do know that this hospital also was
where James Marshall Gaines was treated. He was 49 years old. He worked
for -- I should say James Marshall Gaines III. And he worked for the
"Associated Press" and unfortunately did die overnight of a massive chest
And earlier the spokesman for the hospital, the chief surgeon at the
hospital did give a press conference in which he talked about the kinds of
wounds that they saw here. A lot of rib fractures, a lot of chest-related
injuries, which would not be uncommon for such a catastrophic crash in
which people were moving around, people were not seat belted in. The
spokesman at the hospital did say they didn`t see as many head injuries as
they might have expected or as many lung collapses, that kind of injury as
you might have expected from this kind of a crash at such a high rate of
speed. The patients who have been treated here at temple university range
from the 20s all the way to the 80s.
REID: And they are just not only locals, but also people from around the
world. They have seen people from as far away as Albania.
SHARPTON: Wow. Our prayers are certainly with the families.
Ayman Mohyeldin and joy Reid, thank you for your reporting.
Joining us now, two former national transportation safety board members,
Kitty Higgins and John Goglia. Thank you both for being here.
JOHN GOGLIA, FORMER NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD MEMBER: Thank
SHARPTON: Kitty, what stood out to you from the NTSB press conference?
KITTY HIGGINS, FORMER NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD MEMBER: Well,
what stood out to me, Rev,. when member Sumwalt said that the emergency
brake was applied by the engineer, which meant that the engineer was in
fact in control of the train, and he used the emergency brake as opposed to
what I could consider the normal braking system. And so, the question for
me is what was he doing in those minutes before he realized he had to apply
the emergency brake? Was he distracted in some way.
SHARPTON: How are they going to find out what he was doing?
HIGGINS: Well, they will interview him. They will also look at his cell
phone. Would he by in some way have been using his cell phone? Was he
texting? We`ve seen other accidents where that`s been a major factor.
Those are my questions. What was he doing? Why didn`t he apply the brake
sooner? Was he familiar with the route?
SHARPTON: John, let me ask you, let me go to you, John Goglia, what do you
feel of the main things that the engineer could answer that we are not --
we would not know to be mindful of and curious about? What are the
critical pieces that you would want to know?
GOGLIA: Well, if he is going to talk to us, we would like to know just
what his actions were from the time he left that station, 11 minutes
earlier, to the time of this derailment. Was he -- was he dozing? What
was his work schedule before this event? Had he been working a lot of
hours that would have made him fatigued? Was he struggling with the train,
trying to figure out why it was accelerating? Because maybe it wasn`t an
input from him that was causing the train to accelerate. So there is a lot
SHARPTON: I hear you say, Mr. Goglia, if he is going to talk to us. Are
you suggesting he may not talk to you?
GOGLIA: Well, we`ve heard today that he has already hired lawyers. So the
indication were that he may not be fully cooperative.
SHARPTON: Let me ask you this. What else will the event recorders tell
GOGLIA: It`s not like an airplane recorder.
GOGLIA: You know, an airplane recorder has hundreds of parameters. Event
recorders do not have that robust of a recorder. So it`s really just going
to tell us the basics of how the train was operated. But it is going to
tell us the throttle settings that he set when he left the station. And
whether or not he tried to apply other brake, the regular braking system
before he hit the emergency brake.
SHARPTON: Kitty, how long will it take to move the debris?
HIGGINS: Well, I think they`ll be working as quickly as they can. I think
it`s important to note that the NTSB has released the track back to Amtrak,
which means that they can now start to remove the debris. They`re clearly
still looking, want to make sure there are no other victims that have not
been accounted for. There are still a couple people who are missing,
apparently. So they will do it as quickly as they can. Obviously, it`s a
massive job. But they`ve got the equipment and the human power to do it.
SHARPTON: Will they piece the train back together?
HIGGINS: I believe member Sumwalt said they would take it all to a secure
location so that they can go over it very carefully. As Mr. Goglia said,
to make sure that they`ll look at the mechanics. Was there some mechanical
malfunction in the braking system, for example that might have contributed
to the accident or some other failure.
SHARPTON: Now, the NTSB investigator also talked about a so-called dead
man`s switch, which can stop a train if an engineer loses consciousness,
for example. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUMWALT: Oftentimes in place of the dead man switch, they have an alerter.
So if there is no activity from the engineer within a certain period of
time, the aural and visual alerter will activate in the cab of the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: What role could that play in alerting an engineer to a problem?
HIGGINS: Well, I think the idea is to essentially create a noise, or if he
might have dozed off, to essentially wake him up and realize he`s got the
take control of the train. This train did not -- does not have the
override capacity so that as some trains do. So if speeding excessively,
to be able to slow it down. So I`m not that familiar with all of the
mechanics of this. But an alerter system as I understand it essentially
would be a loud enough noise to get the engineer`s attention.
SHARPTON: John, what will we know tomorrow this time that we don`t know
GOGLIA: We`re going have a better handle on the equipment, because of the
work that they did today. So it will be able to tell us -- put more focus
on whether it`s a mechanical failure or a human being failure.
SHARPTON: Well, John Goglia and Kitty Higgins, thank you for your time.
GOGLIA: Thank you for having me.
SHARPTON: Coming up, survival stories. Amazing accounts from inside the
train when it crashed.
And the politics of Amtrak funding. This debate goes back decades. What
are they saying in Washington today? And what would cause a train to
derail? And why are we seeing more of them? We look at the forensics of
rail disasters with the mechanical engineer.
And a Philadelphia community comes together. Heroic stories are emerging
from the tragedy. You`ll hear them ahead.
SHARPTON: The chief medical officer from Temple University hospital spoke
about the victims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. HERBERT CUSHING, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL:
And I think we`re fortunate there weren`t more deaths. I haven`t seen the
site yet. I know you`ve all seen the site in the pictures. I`ve seen just
little glimpses as I go past the TV screens. But what little I`ve seen
suggested it could have been a lot worse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The survivor stories from inside the train are next.
SHARPTON: Back to our breaking news. Crews are looking for victims inside
the wreckage of a train that crashed in Philadelphia. And we`re hearing
the emergency call that went out right after the train went off the rails.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Notify Amtrak to shut down the entire northeast
corridor. We have a major event here. We have people on the track and a
couple of cars overturned. We`re going to classify this as a mass casualty
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Every single person who survived has a story of what they saw
and how they escaped. Listen to them describe the horrifying moments right
after the crash.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were sitting there, and then it just -- you saw it
go like that, swung. You could feel it off the tracks. And then we just
rolled and rolled.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It felt like the brakes were hit hard, and our car, we
were third from the last, just like you know, started slowly going over to
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I remember just sitting there for a second
thinking I cannot believe that just happened. Once smoke started filling
the car, I thought I got to get out of here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Passengers tried to open the door and get off the
train. And you could hear the panic in their voices.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here. Hold on. Here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go, go, go!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep crawling, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where am I crawling to?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Crawl forward, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next thing I knew we were pushing out the emergency
exit. And I was outside, and there were people screaming and bleeding.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a lot of blood all over the guy next to me
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Someone told me I had been delirious and that they
had carried me off.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My shoes are not my shoes. Somewhere I lost my
shoes. And a lady gave me her shoes.
SHARPTON: Joining me now is Jeremy Wladis. He survived the train crash.
And thank God, Jeremy, you`re here. Thank you so much for being here. I`m
so glad you`re OK.
JEREMY WLADIS, SURVIVED TRAIN CRASH: Thank you for having me.
SHARPTON: You ride this train line often, you tell me. Share with us why
WLADIS: We own a group of restaurants called fuel pizza in D.C., and we
have one in New York. We have a group in New York. We also have a
restaurant here called AG kitchen. And we are building one in (INAUDIBLE).
SHARPTON: You have one in Harlem?
WLADIS: We do. We have a custom Fuel Pizza in Harlem, 123rd and Frederick
SHARPTON: Now, where were you when it happened, the crash?
WLADIS: Luckily, I had just sat down. I stroll through the train
frequently. And I stroll through the entire train all the way to the first
class cabin and all the way back and sat down. I was eating a slice of
pizza, and I was sitting there. And my colleague through the other side of
the aisle, and I was in the last car about the middle of the last car. And
we were sitting there, and we were just chatting. And I had my tablet out.
And I`m eating away and talking. All of the sudden you feel this bump.
You know, a bump you don`t feel on a train.
SHARPTON: Now before the bump, did you notice anything out of the
WLADIS: Earlier when I walked, it felt like the train was going fast. But
I`ve been on many trains that felt that way. And I didn`t know that we
left a little bit late and we were slow at one place. So I thought there
is always a possibility that they`re making up time, and I think these guys
are professionals and usually know what they`re doing. So I don`t second
guess the train. I always find it to be the safest way to travel.
SHARPTON: Right. And what was it like the second after the crash?
WLADIS: The first bump, which we all jumped. The second bump was -- you
knew there was a big problem. And the third bump, you felt the train going
off and you knew there was a derailment, and you knew this was chaos.
SHARPTON: Were you thrown around?
WLADIS: I was -- by this time I had been thrown from the all the way to
the window. My train was tilting about 30 degrees. And I was kind of
stuck there. And you saw phones flying, laptops, things going everywhere.
WLADIS: Bags, purses, shoes, you know, everything. Two women were flung
all the way up above me in the luggage rack.
SHARPTON: Above you?
WLADIS: On to the luggage rack.
SHARPTON: Was there screaming?
WLADIS: There was screaming, chaos. But it happened -- it seems like it
took forever, but it happened in seconds -- a couple of seconds. And then
the train came to a stop, and everyone started screaming, is everybody OK,
you know, Daniel, you all right? Jeremy, you all right? Everybody started
asking, is everybody all right? And I mean, you were just in some state of
SHARPTON: How did you get out? You said you were shocked you got out.
WLADIS: Not that I -- I mean, I was shocked -- I was shocked how many
people made it out and how many people made it out alive and fairly
healthy. Because the trauma -- to feel what you went through was just
incredible. Crazy. And -- so there were people -- there was a guy who
kind of stood up and kind of fell on me. We were trying to help these
people out of the luggage racks, these two women. And they finally, by the
time I was able emerge up, they had just opened the back door. And so, we
were all going out the back door. And I have a scooter. I take one of the
push scooters around New York and D.C. and I left it up there. I saw it.
And I said I`m going to leave it because I`ll get it some other time or
whatever. It`s not that important because I`m going to go help people.
And I got out and they helped me down, you know.
And one guy identified himself as a police officer and he was great. He
really handled things well. And then -- then eventually I got out of the
train. And then I went up the front, up to the next car to try and see if
I could help anybody. And they said no, no, we need help in the back. Go
help them in the back. So I helped a couple of people out. It was limited
on what you could do.
And not long after, people started to emerge. Some of the emergency rescue
teams started to emerge. And then the entire -- then they brought the saw
and cut down the fence. And people were yelling don`t touch metal. Watch
the -- there were live electrical wires hanging, dangling.
WLADIS: And it was like don`t touch them. Don`t go near them. You really
could have slipped and fell on them.
SHARPTON: As you were helping people, did you have a sense that some
people were not going to make it because it was a little while before we
started hearing about some of the fatalities.
WLADIS: Where I was, I could see my car, the next car, and then the next
car was turned at a complete diagonal. So you couldn`t see much above
except some smoke. Not a lot. And you couldn`t really -- you didn`t know
exactly what was going on in front. So these three cars were standing up.
And I didn`t know what was up. But I knew the shock, the shake, and I knew
-- I felt that we`re lucky that things didn`t bludgeon us, that the chairs,
the seats had turned and twisted. Things were bent and twisted all
throughout the train. So you know, I was shocked that everybody this my
car I think walked out from what I could see from my vantage point was
everybody got out. I was shocked by that. And then they walked us through
this field, about 200 yards into this neighborhood, which was this poor
neighborhood. And these people were incredible. These people came up with
cases of water, come in, use our bathroom. We can help you. Want us to
clean you up, what can we do for you. These people -- it was brotherly
love. It really felt like Philadelphia, like you had heard about and read
about and these guys all came out and helped us.
SHARPTON: That`s so great to hear.
WLADIS: It was. The one good thing came out is everybody kind of became
one, you know. It was a great thing.
SHARPTON: But that`s great to hear amidst all of this tragedy.
Jeremy Wladis, thank you for your time. And we`re so happy again that
WLADIS: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Ahead, how a new technology could have prevented the crash.
It`s on some trains already. Why not this one?
Also, new concerns about our infrastructure. Will the disaster lead to
change in Washington?
And remembering the victims. Many on their way home when tragedy hit.
SHARPTON: Pictures of the debris field from the Amtrak train crash in
Philadelphia that left at least seven people dead. Investigators think the
train was going more than 100 miles per hour, double the speed limit for
that curve. Two years ago a metro north train derailed in New York after
going into a curve at nearly three times the speed limit. Right after the
"Today" show`s Jeff Rosen showed us technology could have prevented it from
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: State-of-the-art collision avoidance technology.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s called positive train control, or PTC. A
sophisticated system of sensors on the rails and inside the locomotive,
even using satellites to track the train`s movements and prevent many
accidents caused by operator error. If the train is going too fast, the
computer warns the crew. If the engineer doesn`t slow down, the computer
activates the brakes. PTC helps prevent collisions too, stopping the train
from blowing through red signals if the operator is distracted. The NTSB
agrees, positive train control is on its most wanted list of safety
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: That was NBC`s Jeff Rosen. The train last night did not have
that technology. Why not? That`s next.
SHARPTON: Breaking news. NBC News has confirmed the name of the engineer
on Amtrak 188. His name is Brandon Bostian. More on him as we learn it.
Now, while speed was a factor in this derailment, it`s certainly true that
Amtrak`s aging infrastructure has been a concern for years, especially
because the system is seeing record ridership. It was up 55 percent from
1997 to 2012, with nearly 31 million riders last year. But Amtrak still
getting roughly the same amount of federal funding it got 20 years ago.
Today the House considered cutting that spending even more with some
members said that raised serious concerns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NITA LOWEY (D), NEW YORK: While we don`t know the cause of this
accident, we do know that starving rail of funding will not enable safer
REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: And it`s not just our trains, Mr.
Chairman, it is our bridges that are failing. It is our highways that are
congested and riddled with potholes. It is our runways, our airports.
REP. CHAKA FATTAH (D), PENNSYLVANIA: We don`t know the circumstances of
this accident. We don`t know what caused it. But we do know if we don`t
invest in the capital infrastructure of our country, there will be future
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Again, there is still a lot we don`t know about this accident.
But could more funding for our trains keep passengers safer?
Joining me now is Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York. He serves on the
House Subcommittee on Railroads. Congressman, it seems speed was a factor
in this crash. But how critical is it that we upgrade Amtrak`s
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Well, it`s very critical that we
upgrade Amtrak`s infrastructure, and not just Amtrak. All rail and all
highways. We are spending, you know, we spent about $50 billion a year on
highways. About $15 billion a year on bridges. And about $1.2 billion,
about two percent of our transportation budget goes to rail. That is
ridiculous. And we`re spending much too little. We have a $50 billion
backlog of maintenance of track bed work on Amtrak. Twenty one billion
dollars of that is on the northeast corridor. So, that`s --
SHARPTON: Fifty billion backlog?
NADLER: Yes, 50 billion backlog of which about 21 billion is on the
northeast corridor from Boston to Washington. And the President proposed
whittling that down at $2.5 billion a year, but the republicans won`t give
the funds. We used to spend -- let`s put it this way. We are now spending
on all infrastructure -- roads, highways, bridges, mass transit, railroads,
broadband, we`re spending about 1.7 percent of GDP of our economy on
infrastructure. Pre-Reagan we used to spend about four percent. Europe is
spending about five percent. China is spending nine percent. And who do
you think is going to be more competitive when they have fast erodes,
faster rails, safer and more efficient transportation.
SHARPOTN: So China is spending nine percent? Go ahead.
NADLER: China spends about nine percent of GDP on infrastructure.
NADLER: We`re spending 1.7 percent.
SHARPTON: 1.7 percent of GDP. How do people justify in the Congress
taking the politics out of it, just purely, how do you justify that when we
are talking about the safety of American lives?
NADLER: Not just the safety of American lives, also the competitiveness of
our economy and competing with the rest of the world and in generating
jobs. They don`t really justify it. They just say we don`t want to spend
money, and we spend less money. I mean, there is a whole philosophy. The
Republican Party thinks the federal government should spend as little money
as a possible except on defense. And you see this morning they cut on a
party line vote $290 million out of the Amtrak budget, this morning after
that accident, below $290 million below what was in last year`s budget, and
considerably more than that from what the President requested.
SHARPTON: So now we don`t know. We know that speed was involved. We
don`t know how involved infrastructure will end up being here. But despite
the accident and the unknown, they voted to cut $290 million this morning?
NADLER: This morning it was in the appropriations committee. You had some
quotes I think from that committee meeting a little while ago. They voted
to cut $290 million below this year`s budget for next year.
SHARPTON: That`s amazing. Congressman Jerrold Nadler, thank you for your
NADLER: You`re quite welcome.
SHARPTON: This disaster put a new focus on the first responders and
everyday heroes who jumped in to help save lives. The people who guided
passengers out of the mangled wreckage and who cared for the injured. The
President released a statement praising the city for its response. Saying,
quote, "Philadelphia is known as the city of brotherly love, a city of
neighborhoods and neighbors. And that spirit of loving kindness was
reaffirmed last night as hundreds of first responders and passengers lent a
hand to their fellow human beings in need."
Joining me now is Darrell Clarke, president of the Philadelphia City
Council. Thank you for being here.
DARRELL CLARKE, PHILADELPHIA CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT: Thank you, Reverend
SHARPTON: Councilman, how is the city pulling together right now?
CLARKE: Well, this is a very challenging day for us. Very tragic event.
I toured the site. I want to say our prayers are out to the victims and
their families. It`s a real location -- I mean, something that you`ve
never seen before. It`s only amazing. And we`re fortunate that there
weren`t more significant injuries to the passengers. But the simple
reality is in this particular community, this is a strong working class
community. And I`m really proud about the way they responded. Not
necessarily to the accident, but responded to those first responders that
took the responsibility in the dark of night to deal with this particular
SHARPTON: I had a survivor here in studio with me who said in the darker
night, people were running out, offering to help clean them up, offering
for people to come into their homes. Really were reaching out in this
working class neighborhood.
CLARKE: Exactly. People were coming out, as you said, Reverend Al,
offering water, offering comfort to the responders. This is a really
tragic situation, the dark of night. As I said earlier, but the simple
reality is people came out very aggressively. As I was standing here
recently, an individual just offered to allow me to go up on the roof so I
could see the sight. And I explained to them I already seen it. But the
reality is that is the fabric that we have in this particular community.
So I feel real good about our response. I feel real good about the people
in this neighborhood. But I feel really bad what has happened here. And
we have to make sure that it never happens again.
SHARPTON: I mean, no one could ever predict a tragedy like this, and no
one certainly in their hometown or near their home could predict this. And
it`s the reaction almost the unthinking reaction of kindness that does give
you some kind of hope in the middle of this kind of tragedy.
CLARKE: Right. Well, Reverend Al, we`re not called the city of brotherly
love by an accident. I mean, the simple reality is we have a lot of good
people in these communities. Whenever there is an event such as this and
nothing at this level that has happened. But when we have these events,
we`re always responding, we`re always supporting our first responders,
opening up our homes, our arms to do whatever needs to happen. You saw a
clear representation of that last night. And it continues throughout the
SHARPTON: Well, our thoughts are certainly with your city. And we
certainly, certainly congratulate and uphold those ordinary people that
showed some extraordinary compassion and sensitivity in the middle of this
unprecedented crisis in your city. Philadelphia City Council President
Darrell Clarke, thank you for your time tonight.
CLARKE: Thank you, Reverend, for bringing it to attention. Thank you so
SHARPTON: Still ahead, we`ll look at why trains crash, and how to stop the
Plus, we`ll go live to Philadelphia to talk to my colleague Chris Hayes,
who surveyed the damage today from a helicopter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT SUMWALT, NTSB BOARD MEMBER: Our mission is to find out not only
what happened, but why it happened so that we can prevent it from happening
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Investigators speaking late today about the crash of Amtrak 188.
While train travel is generally very safe, there are some common threads to
the tragedies that do happen. The most common cause of derailments
equipment and track issues. A 2002 train crash near Crescent City, Florida
was blamed on inadequate track maintenance. There is also human
negligence. The NTSB blamed a 2008 Metrolink crash in California on the
engineer texting just seconds before skipping a red light. Mother Nature
can be a factor as well. A 2009 crash in Illinois was blamed in part on
heavy rain washing out some of the tracks. Another possible cause, human
error. Cited when a metro north train crashed outside of New York City in
The engineer fell asleep at the controls as the train traveled 82 miles per
hour into a dangerous curve. High speed is again being cited in this
crash. With this train traveling at over 100 miles per hour.
Joining me now is University of North Dakota Mechanical Engineering
Professor George Bibel and author of "Train Wreck: The Forensics of Rail
Disasters." And back with us, former NTSB board member Kitty Higgins.
Professor Bibel, let me go to you. What questions do you have tonight for
GEORGE BIBEL, NORTH DAKOTA MECHANICAL ENGINEERING PROFESSOR: Well, they
seem to be zeroing in on speed. And that`s gross human error. Derailments
are almost always equipment failure. About the only way you can derail a
train with human error is too fast on a curve. It very rarely happens.
But it looks like we`ve -- in fact, I was all over that. I`m trying to
write science books. I had to go back the 1950s to find one in New Jersey.
Now we`ve had two last year and one now.
SHARPTON: Professor, the train was we are told was traveling over 100
miles per hour. What other factors could have contributed to the crash?
BIBEL: Well, I don`t think anything other than human error. They are
developing positive train control that would allow the computer to
intervene if the human makes answer error. But that`s a work in progress.
That`s proceeding about as fast as it can. They`re having a lot of
technological growing pains. But they`ll get there.
SHARPTON: Kitty, how does this derailment compare to others you have seen?
KITTY HIGGINS, FORMER NTSB BOARD MEMBER: Well, Reverend Al, I was in
California for that Metrolink accident you mentioned earlier. And out of
that accident came the legislative requirement for positive train control.
That was seven years ago. And as your previous earlier guest said, it`s
still not in place. On the other hand, on the northeast corridor, if you
were on an Acela train last night, this accident would not have happened
because there is automatic train stop that is part of the Acela system. So
it is possible to do this, even though we don`t have positive train control
implemented nationwide. And frankly, I don`t understand why we haven`t
implemented positive train stop on the northeast corridor. We can do it.
SHARPTON: Professor, let me ask you about that, the automatic train stop.
How easy it is to put in trains, and trains that don`t have it as in this
BIBEL: Well, there`s unexpected problems. When they passed the law, there
were nine systems under test throughout the United States, and they`re all
-- they`re all incompatible. And it literally took them years to agree on
engineering standards. Now that may sound like foot-dragging, but I like
to illustrate that problem with -- well, IBM and Apple computers were
incompatible for decades. And they actually never solved that problem. A
very simple explanation. Their bits were numbered reversed. One did it
one way, the other did it the other way. And they never did solve the
problem. The solution is Apple finally added IBM compatible chip sets.
So these engineering standards can create some unexpected problems. Now,
they have agreed on standards, but it took them years to do that, which is
part of -- a big part of the problem. And I don`t know the specifics of
this line. But elsewhere they`ve -- they used to give away bandwidths,
then they started selling it. Now it`s all used up in big metropolitan
areas. There is other -- they`re having problems installing antennas.
There are bureaucratic issues. There are -- it`s a work in progress.
SHARPTON: Kitty, what kind of steps can we take to prevent this kind of
tragedy in the future?
HIGGINS: Reverend al, I would say this is a failure of leadership. It is
difficult? Yes. But we put a man on the moon in less time than it`s going
to take to implement positive train control. We can do this. We know how
to do it. The technology exists. The question is whether there is a will
to do it within government and without government. We need to do it.
There are other safety measures that I`m sure will come out of this
accident like improving the interiors of cabs, of train cars to make them
SHARPTON: George Bibel and Kitty Higgins, thank you both for your time
tonight. We`ll be right back.
SHARPTON: The train`s mangled wreckage shows the force of impact when this
train derailed. My colleague Chris Hayes went up in a chopper earlier
today to survey the damage.
Joining me now is Chris Hayes, host of "ALL IN" here on MSNBC. Chris, what
struck you as you saw the damage for yourself from the air?
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES": You know, the most
striking thing is just the immediate thought you have is that you can`t
believe that there are only seven fatalities. Obviously seven fatalities
is a huge amount and horrific. But when you look at the wreckage, when you
know there are 243 people on that train, and when you see the turn which is
about as close to a right turn as a train can make, I mean, it`s -- the
track is going like this and it ends up going like that and there is a
curve between the two. When you think about that curve taken at 100 miles
an hour with the amount of force and the mass that is sort of careening
forward, and if you look at the car that had been smashed to bits, the
first passenger car, it seems like a miracle that there were not more
SHARPTON: As you viewed it and saw that, do you think that the speed and
that we`re told and other things that they`re looking at is something that
could have been avoided had the technology been more updated, had the
infrastructure been more upgraded? I mean, what were your thoughts?
Obviously, we`re waiting on the investigation. And we`re less than 24
hours since it happened. But what comes to mind as you viewed this from
HAYES: Well, the basic physics of it look pretty clear, particularly when
you look at the wreckage and you know from the NTSB and from the train that
it was traveling at 102 miles an hour is the terminal speed before it
dropped off the reading. When you look at the physics, you can see what
happened. You can see that it took the bend too fast. You can see that
the rails were literally lifted up off the ground by the force of taking
that too fast. And you see the embankment where once it jumped off the
rails it smashed into and crashed the train. Now one of the key things to
understand here we know that the engineer survived the crash. The
locomotive on this train, it`s a push/pull system so, there can be
locomotives in the back, although that rarely happens in Amtrak trains.
It`s usually pulled.
The locomotive engineer hits the impact. The locomotive is engineered to
extremely high safety standards. It`s essentially like a tank and in fact
that was sitting just off the wreckage site almost fully intact whereas the
first passenger car which was marked down on the ground was just shredded
and almost, you know, crushed like a piece of aluminum foil sitting there,
it was that took the brunt of that impact. That`s why, you know, the
engineer survived. Why that person apparently has been identified, and
that locomotive was sitting there. In terms of positive train control,
which is the technology that would have stopped it, I tend to trust the
NTSB on this.
SHARPTON: All right, Chris Hayes, thank you for your reporting tonight.
And catch "ALL IN" tonight live from Philadelphia at 8:00 p.m. Eastern
Time. We`ll be right back.
SHARPTON: Tonight we`re learning more about the seven people confirmed
dead in this tragedy. One of the victims was 20-year-old Justin Zemser
from New York. He was a student at the Naval Academy, heading home on
leave at the time of the derailment. His grieving mother talked about him
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN ZEMSER, MOTHER OF JUSTIN ZEMSER: He was a loving son, nephew, and
cousin who was very community minded. This tragedy has shocked us all in
the worst way, and we wish to spend this time grieving with our close
family and friends.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mrs. Zemser, what do you want people to know about
ZEMSER: He was wonderful. He was absolutely wonderful. Everybody looked
up to my son. And there is just no other words I could say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Another victim was Jim Gaines, a 48-year-old father of two from
New Jersey. Gaines was an Associated Press staffer who was returning home
after meetings in Washington. A third victim has been identified as Abid
Gilani, a 55-year-old Wells Fargo executive. The four other victims have
not yet been identified. One person missing tonight is Bob Gildersleeve,
seen on this flier held by his son Mark.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB GILDERSLEEVE, SON OF ROBERT GILDERSLEEVE: My name is Mark
Gildersleeve. Please help me find my dad. And if you have any
information, please call these numbers listed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: We`re praying for the safe return of all of those missing. And
our prayers go out to all of the victims of this tragedy. No matter who
you are and where you are, let us all pray for the victims, families and
for those yet missing.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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