'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, May 13th, 2015
Read the transcript to the Wednesday show
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: May 13, 2015
Guest: Robert Pottroff, Ezra Klein, Paul Chung, Ayman Mohyeldin, Andrew
Tangel, John Goglia, Patrick Murphy
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: That does it for us, thanks very much for being
with us tonight, we`ll see you again tomorrow, now it`s time for THE
LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Thanks Rachel.
O`DONNELL: Complete chaos is what survivors are saying they experienced
last night when that Amtrak train went off the rails in northeast
We now know who was driving that train, but we don`t know why he was
going so fast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our whole city is mourning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The train disaster here in Philadelphia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It went off the tracks, I know, we just rolled and
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While traveling through a left hand turn, the entire
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At least seven people were killed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Including a young Navy midshipman on his way home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was absolutely wonderful. Everybody looked up
to my son.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than 200 have been treated for injuries.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were fortunate that there weren`t more deaths,
things could have been a lot worse.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eight people still in critical care.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the busiest rail travel corridor in the
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With more than two thousand trains every day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Train speed exceeded one hundred miles an hour prior
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than twice the pollster`s speed limit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We now know what happened, but we don`t know why it
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This section of track lacked a critical railroad
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those of us who were able to walk away from that, I
know I`m very lucky.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People really responded in this neighborhood
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.
People do actually take that very seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Tonight, Amtrak service between New York and Philadelphia
Amtrak says limited service will be -- will resume tomorrow between
Boston and New York and between Philadelphia and Washington.
Investigators say they still do not know exactly what happened between
the time that train left Philadelphia`s 30th street station last night
and the time it crashed just 10 minutes later.
"Nbc News" has confirmed the engineer driving that train last night was
Brandon Bostian, someone who knows the engineer tells Msnbc that he is a
cheerful guy and has always been a fan of railroads.
The person who knows Brandon Bostian declined to be identified, but says
he last saw Bostian two weeks ago and they talked about trains because
they`re both fans.
The person said, "the notion that he made it, so to speak, it is of no
surprise to me -- made it driving trains". Bostian`s Facebook page says
he is from Memphis, Tennessee, but now lives in New York City.
The National Transportation Safety Board announced today that the train
was traveling at double the speed limit when the crash occurred, killing
seven people and injuring more than 200.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT SUMWALT, BOARD MEMBER, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD:
Just moments before the derailment, the train was placed into engineer-
induced braking, and this means that the engineer applied full emergency
-- full emergency brake application.
Maximum authorized speed through this curve was 50 miles per hour. 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 recorder is terminated, the
train speed was 102 miles per hour.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The "Philadelphia Inquirer" reports that the engineer Mr.
Bostian declined to give a statement to police investigators and left
the detective`s division with an attorney.
Joining us now, Msnbc`s Ayman Mohyeldin who is at the crash site, also
joining us, Andrew Tangel of Washington, a "Wall Street Journal"
reporter who was part of the team that first broke the story today about
the train`s speed before the NTSB confirmed that.
Ayman, what`s the situation at the crash site tonight?
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC: Well, investigators are still going through the
timeline. That is a word we`re hearing over and over again, Lawrence,
it is all about the timeline of what happened, when the train left the
train station at 9:10 and ultimately derailed at around 9:21.
And as a result of that, the NTSB today says that they have at least on-
site here, returned the tracks to Amtrak, meaning they have at least
concluded some part of their investigation here.
But the investigation now is going to shift unto that timeline. What we
do know from the NTSB as you mentioned, the train was going 106 miles
per hour when it made that fatal turn.
But more importantly, now the question surround the timeline of the
engineer. What did the engineer do in the final minutes leading up to
that turn or to that curve?
And more importantly, they want to piece together more about the
timeline of perhaps what he was doing over the course of the journey in
Now the investigation as well is going to be looking at some very
important key pieces of evidence, including the event recorder or the
black box of the -- of the train, so to speak.
That has already been taken by the NTSB, it has gone to Amtrak in order
for the data to be downloaded. Ultimately, will be taken to the NTSB
lab in Washington D.C.
There was also a forward facing camera on board that may give the
investigators some important clues. Perhaps one piece of information
that has surprised some.
The NTSB has not yet spoken to the engineer of this train. They have
not also interviewed members of the crew. They say they plan on doing
that in the next day or two.
They did not give any reason why the NTSB has not yet spoken to the
engineer. But in terms of what is going on here, they wanted to make
sure in terms of all of the perishable information, they got all of that
And among the things they`re going to be looking for, was the train
operating at full capacity in the sense that there were no mechanical
Were there any problems with the signals en route? And more importantly,
the actions of the engineer himself. All of those are going to be
factors in the investigation according to the NTSB at this point,
O`DONNELL: Andrew Tangel, according to the "Philadelphia Inquirer"
report tonight with the engineer leaving the police without saying
anything to them, leaving in the company of an attorney, this may
already be a homicide investigation?
ANDREW TANGEL, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, the fact that there wasn`t a
statement given, only raises more questions at least in the public
And raises more questions, deepens the mystery for all of us trying to
figure out what happened. Because I think central to the story as he
goes forward is us trying to get some understanding of what the engineer
was doing in those final moments.
What led him to drive the train at twice the speed it was supposed to be
going at? Was there some explanation? Was there some other mechanical
issue we don`t know about?
At this point, it`s all unclear. More than a year ago, there was a
fatal train wreck in the Bronx, New York, and it turned out that the
explanation given by the engineer in that case was that there -- he
dozed off due to severe undiagnosed sleep apnea.
So there`re myriad potential explanations, but at this point, it`s one
of the big mysteries strangling the case in the big question that is
confronting the federal investigators on this.
O`DONNELL: We`re joined now by John Goglia, a former NTSB board member
John, what`s your reaction to the information so far about no statement
by the engineer, the engineer leaving the police in the company of a
JOHN GOGLIA, FORMER BOARD MEMBER, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD:
Well, it`s still -- you know, this is still a free country and he
doesn`t have to give us a statement.
But even if he had given us a statement, the NTSB has a set of
procedures that we followed that would verify everything that he said.
So we`re going to -- but you know, I`m sure the NTSB is going to look at
the train performance. The locomotive, you know, makes so much power.
They`re going to look to see what it took for that locomotive to get to
be a 100 miles an hour, plus at that turn in 11 minutes. Did he have to
go the full power when he left the station to accelerate it?
I mean there`s lots of -- lots of detail work that is yet to be done,
some of it probably hasn`t even started yet, you know --
O`DONNELL: And --
GOGLIA: In the -- it`s an electronic control to the train and
electronic controls have chips.
If there`re nonvolatile memory in the chips, they will have information
on them. So there`s lots of tools available to the NTSB to determine
just what happened in that 11 minutes.
O`DONNELL: John Goglia, if there was an extraordinary amount of
acceleration to get that train up to that speed in less than ten
minutes, is that something that the passengers would have sensed?
Would that have felt unusual?
GOGLIA: Maybe, but, you know, it`s -- I`ve been on trains where if
you`re not paying attention, you`re doing something else that you may
not pick that up right away.
So -- and you know, let`s not forget that this track that Amtrak has,
has been rebuilt in the not-too-distant past to help with the high speed
trains, so it`s all the trains.
So there`s a good possibility that the bed was so well prepared that you
wouldn`t have that rocking and rolling, so to speak.
O`DONNELL: I want to listen to what NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said
today about the train speed and about the safety options we have for
Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUMWALT: Amtrak route a good bit of the Northeastern Corridor, has a
system called Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement that`s called ACSES.
ACSES is installed throughout most of the Northeast Corridor for Amtrak.
However, 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 is designed to enforce the civil speed to keep the train
below its maximum speed.
And so we have called for positive train control for 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)
O`DONNELL: John Goglia, what is taking so long on installing this
GOGLIA: Well, you know, I worked a lot with the Federal Railroad
Administration on positive train control in the -- in the late `90s. It
is -- it is a system that has been evolving.
It`s been actually improving. So what we were looking at in the `90s
has changed considerably today because more and more of our control of
our transportation systems is being done by computers.
And so it changes the physical requirements on the train, however, it`s
still expensive. And Amtrak has been struggling with funding for a long
time and you know, it`s amazing that they -- we`re going to make the 15
deadline for the Northeast Corridor.
There is -- there is a good portion of it that`s already done,
unfortunately, this section of track has not --
O`DONNELL: We --
GOGLIA: Been completed.
O`DONNELL: We -- I think we have a map ready that shows what part of
the track has this safety feature in it. It`s basically Boston to New
Haven, according to this map by the "New York Times".
A small stretch in New Jersey has it and then from Baltimore down to
Washington, it seems to have it. But it obviously wasn`t there where it
was needed last night.
We`re joined now by former U.S. Congressman Patrick Murphy who was on
that train last night who joined me by phone from the scene describing
in vivid detail what it was like to be in that train.
Patrick, it`s just 24 hours ago that we started talking about this. And
we`re learning now that the instruments indicate that the speed at the
time of the crash was over a 100 miles an hour.
When we talked last night, I asked you about the speed, your sense was
that it hadn`t made it up to maximum speed yet, that it was still
increasing and moving at a kind of normal speed at that point.
What is your feeling about it now?
PATRICK MURPHY, FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Well, you know, as
I said last night to you, Lawrence, I mean, I was fixing out my ear
plugs and I was -- I was on my computer getting work done.
So, I wasn`t paying attention, it didn`t seem out of place, but you
know, it is what it is, that`s the evidence and that`s the fact. So,
it`s just a tragedy and, you know, we can`t bring back those seven lives
that were killed.
You know, for me, it`s -- you know, what just happened is back there, I
mean it was -- still pretty raw to be honest with you, Lawrence, so --
but it`s -- it was a sad day.
And my heart goes out to not just those families, but also to the ones
who have been injured.
O`DONNELL: You know, Patrick, one of the things that struck me in
talking to other victims of the crash last night, other people who were
on that train with you, is when we talked about speed, no one felt
anything unusual in the speed.
They felt nothing unusual or threatening in the motions of the train
until the crash was actually happening. There wasn`t any hint that
there was any lack of control prior to the actual crash taking place.
MURPHY: Yes, I know, and that`s what -- that`s what surprised I think
all of us now. You know, in retrospect, the fact that, there -- you
know, there`s a 50 miles zone, so there were more than doubled the speed
than it was.
You know, you just don`t pay attention when you`re on a train, it`s not
like a plane that`s -- it`s not even like a car, I mean, it`s supposed
to be the more safe and we don`t -- we don`t know all that.
These accidents have happened and in more frequency, and there`s a lot
more that needs to be done.
O`DONNELL: And Patrick, I`d like to hear your thoughts and that you`ve
-- in the last 24 hours about what kind of safety options we should have
in these trains.
A lot of talk about seatbelts, some people saying it wouldn`t make much
difference. How would you have felt about having a seatbelt last night?
MURPHY: Well, listen, a seatbelt would have helped me from flying
across the train car, Lawrence, but I don`t think that`s a necessary
But I think there is obviously some steps that, you know, the fact that
we have, you know, the PTC, the positive train control, you know, from
New York to Boston, but -- and then from Baltimore down to Washington.
Well, we don`t have it here seems unjust. You know, we need it all
over. I mean, it saves one life, Lawrence, that`s one life that`s
definitely worth it.
O`DONNELL: Absolutely, we`re going to take a break here, Andrew Tangel,
John Goglia, Ayman Mohyeldin, thank you all for joining me, Patrick
Murphy is going to stay with us.
Coming up, surviving a train crash, what passengers need to know,
Patrick Murphy is going to tell us what it felt like in that train.
And later, the fight that broke out in Congress today over Amtrak
funding and why Republicans objected to even mentioning the crash when
discussing Amtrak funding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rolling along nice and smooth, and all of a sudden,
we were on our side, and it looked like we were going to flip, we never
flipped, we went onto the side and back off to the side and then we
can`t go home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I started hearing people, I was on the side,
and someone told me I had been delirious and that they had carried me
At the shoes -- my shoes are not my shoes, somewhere I lost my shoes and
a lady gave me her shoes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: You are looking at images of the repair and removal process
of those -- removal of the debris and the trunks from those tracks in
Tonight, the work goes on obviously around the clock, cranes brought in
to start pulling things out. At the beginning of every airline flight,
you hear safety instructions from the cabin crew which by now many of
you have memorized.
But on passenger trains in the United States, you don`t hear a word
about safety. Here is "Nbc`s" Jeff Rossen with what you need to know to
survive a train accident.
JEFF ROSSEN, NBC NEWS: Officials in Philadelphia trying to figure out
what went wrong. Combing over the twisted wreckage from this latest
Passengers killed, dozens of others rushed to hospitals when this Amtrak
train derailed and flipped over, photos inside capturing the chaos, the
smoke, the terror.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just rolled and rolled, the next thing I knew we
were pushing out the emergency exit. I was outside and there were
people screaming and bleeding.
ROSSEN: And train accidents are in the news happening across the
country. Just months ago in February, this deadly Metro North crash in
New York; six killed, more than a dozen hurt when the train slammed into
an SUV on the tracks and exploded.
Check out this dramatic video from inside a train crash just outside
Orlando. It demolished the new sports coupe. The car stalled on a
railroad crossing just before the gates came down.
The driver got out with seconds to spare. And in Glendale, California,
an SUV stuck on the tracks caused this commuter train to derail, hitting
trains on both sides of it, killing 11 people.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, more than 230 people
were killed in nearly 2,100 collisions nationwide last year alone.
In this latest crash in Philadelphia, the stories and the videos
emerging, desperate passengers struggling to escape --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep calling OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who am I calling?
ROSSEN: Yelling in the dark for help, frantically trying to pry open
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who, me?
ROSSEN: If this were your train, would you know how to get out?
SCOTT SAUER, SAFETY EXPERT, SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA TRANSPORTATION
AUTHORITY: So, in an emergency, there are three ways to get out.
ROSSEN: Scott Sauer is the safety expert for SEPTA; Philadelphia`s
regional rail service.
SAUER: Every train in the country has emergency signs, and then if you
see the sign, you can even open the main door of the train that you came
in on --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow --
SAUER: And just follow those instructions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So even if the conductor or the engineer are too
busy or chaotic to open the door, you can open it yourself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I try it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, so just lift and pull open the ring, and
then push this red handle down, and the door is released. And I can
open it the rest of the way.
And by the way, this is a pretty big drop here, so you want to be
careful getting out.
ROSSEN: Overnight, reports of passengers on that Amtrak train trying to
open the windows to escape. Here is how you do it.
SAUER: In every train car, there is emergency exit windows. You`re
going to take the handle, you`re going to pull it, you`re going to pull
all the rubber from around that window, discard it.
You`re going to grab the handle, you`re going to pull the window towards
you and then you can go out the window. But remember, it`s still a
seven to eight-foot drop to the ground, so you have to be aware of that.
ROSSEN: In most train crashes, there is fire and smoke. So, how do you
get out alive when you can`t even see? Recently, we filled this car with
simulated smoke to show you.
SAUER: It`s going to be chaotic. You want to get on the floor, this is
where you can breathe. Want to get down here and you want to follow the
striping on the floor.
We have glow in the dark striping on the floor, it`s going to take you
where you need to go. You want to get to the door, you want to get to
the end of the car where your exit is.
O`DONNELL: Patrick Murphy, like you, I have been riding those Amtrak
trains all my life, I had no idea that there was evacuation diagram
anywhere on the train.
I`ve never noticed it, I`ve never noticed that striping on the floor
that we`re talking -- that we just learned about. Those windows that
open that way, I`ve never known any of that until I just saw it.
MURPHY: Yes, there`s no doubt, we should learn from the airline
industry which -- and which you`re best likely to survive by the way and
use that and really, the railway industry.
Because lessons aren`t -- and you saw that panic last night on that
train on 188 where people, you know, in some instances up --
unfortunately where every man for himself.
O`DONNELL: And Patrick, having been through it last night, have you had
any thoughts about what you wish was on that train, what might have been
more helpful in a situation like that?
MURPHY: Not really, Lawrence. I mean, I haven`t been -- as thoughtful
about it, because I have -- I have just been trying to soak up the
family and I was coaching my son`s hockey team earlier this evening.
Thinking about if I win for Jack Murphy. But like -- that`s you know --
because that`s what -- I`ve just -- that`s my -- that`s my life, it`s my
O`DONNELL: Yes --
MURPHY: So, to be honest with you, so -- but the lesson learned, you
know, last night -- you know, yes, listen, if -- it was more clear, you
know, where things were, what we could have done.
But at the end of the day, when we were on its side, you know, I knew --
I saw the emergency exit windows and the ceiling, you know, I climbed
up, I got it off and then helped people get through it.
But, you know -- but like any situation, you know, we were all pretty
banged up, but you just got to -- you know -- you got to get through it
and you got to be there and you got to be a team player and you got to
And it can`t be every man for himself, you got to do it as a team,
otherwise, you`ll all perish.
O`DONNELL: John Goglia, does NTSB have any recommendations for train
safety that you think should be incorporated that would help guide
people after these kinds of crashes?
GOGLIA: Well, you know what really has to happen here? Is that we have
to stop treating rail cars the way we treat airplane interiors.
We have standards for airplanes, for seats, for seatbelts, for what`s on
the floor. Emergency lighting. One of the things that the Congressman
had just mentioned about the darkness and the inability to see.
On air planes, we have battery-powered lights and emergencies that come
on. We have long treated the inside of the airplane as a system.
So it`s not just adding a seatbelt, it`s adding the proper materials,
proper seat construction, keeping them secured to the floor, but having
them not so stiff that if you get slammed into them, you don`t break
bones or split your head open.
So there`s a lot of things that have been done on airplanes over the
last 50 years that the rail industry and the rail car industry could
profit from by using that system inside.
And I hope beyond all hope that this accident will drive that discussion
finally, that it will put those issues on the table so that we can
O`DONNELL: Patrick Murphy and John Goglia, thank you very much for
joining us tonight.
MURPHY: Thanks, Lawrence.
GOGLIA: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: We just -- we have this from "Wcau", the "Nbc" affiliate in
Philadelphia. Philadelphia police east detectives, SIU, confirmed that
Brandon Bostian, the engineer of that train handed over his cell phone
to east detectives and gave a blood sample.
He interviewed earlier today and is expected to conduct another
interview in the future. Lieutenant Stanford with the Philadelphia
police says that no one has been named as a suspect in the crash at this
Coming up, more from the survivors of that crash.
O`DONNELL: We have breaking news in the investigation of the Amtrak
train crash in Philadelphia. WCAU, the NBC affiliate in Philadelphia,
is reporting that Philadelphia Police East detectives confirmed that
Brandon Bastion, the -- handed over, he was the engineer of the train,
that he handed over his cell phone to East detectives and gave a blood
sample. He interviewed earlier today and is expected to conduct another
interview in the future. That`s from WCAU TV in Philadelphia.
Lieutenant Stanford with the Philadelphia Police says that no one has
been named as a suspect in the crash at this point. That report is
somewhat in conflict with an earlier report tonight from the
"Philadelphia Inquirer" saying that the engineer of that train, Brandon
Bastion, declined to give a statement to police investigators and left
the East Detectives Division with an attorney.
We`re joined now by MSNBC`s Joy Reid who is outside Temple University
Hospital in Philadelphia.
Joy, the attention now very sharply on the engineer, especially after
learning today that according to the instruments the train was going
double the speed limit in that zone, going over 100 miles an hour, when
it should have been doing a maximum of 50. The -- there seems to be
some amount of leaking coming out of the police department of what`s
going on there, but we`ve got some contrary reports on it tonight.
JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. And some of
the confusion earlier, Lawrence, came because there was a press
conference that the mayor -- that Mayor Nutter gave earlier in which he
may have mixed up the engineer versus the conductor. And I think there
was some confusion even among the reports, there were earlier reports
that even appeared in the (INAUDIBLE) newspaper, saying that the
engineer, Mr. Bastion, had not spoken with authorities.
That was cleared up somewhat when Mayor Nutter said that he may have
spoke with authorities just to say, I would to speak with an attorney
which, of course, is his right. And of course as you said a lot of the
attention is now on the speed at which the train took that turn. We did
also hear earlier today from authorities that it does appear that at
some level, at least, the engineer applied the emergency brake. It
didn`t do much. It didn`t slow the train down very much, but that the
brake was applied.
And I think, as you said, there`s going to be a lot of scrutiny now on
what the engineer did as he came into that turn.
O`DONNELL: Well, certainly if the WCAU report is correct, that he has
given a blood sample, we`ll know everything about what was in his
system, if anything, and that indication about the brake being applied
certainly indicates he was alert enough at that moment to do that. So
he was at that point certainly in control, trying to be in control of
Joy, you`re at the hospital there which is one of the trauma centers
that was flooded last night. How did the hospitals there divide this
massive number of people who were coming their way? Who was directing
the ambulance traffic?
REID: Yes. Absolutely. There were triage units that were actually at
the crash site that directed patients to each of five different area
hospitals, including Temple University Hospital, which is actually a
level one trauma unit. So they actually got the largest overall number
of patients and some of the most severe patients so essentially a triage
units that were on-site at the crash decided where people should go
based on the expertise of the various hospitals and based on the
severity of the injuries.
So as Dr. Herbert Cushing, who is the chief medical officer here, said
earlier in a couple of press availabilities, it`s somewhat luck of the
draw, somewhat based on what hospitals were capable of doing in the
moment. Some of the most severe cases did come here, including one of
the fatalities, the 49-year-old gentleman from New Jersey, who
unfortunately did pass away of a massive chest wound.
And what Dr. Curbing was saying was that they were seeing a lot of chest
wounds. A lot of obviously broken bones and lacerations. But most of
the injuries were, as he said, what you would see in a high speed car
crash. And it`s interesting now that the attention is being turned to
things like the engineer`s cell phone because as you know in, you know,
incidents like a car crash, that`s what you look at.
You look at things like what alcohol level, you look at things like, was
the person paying attention to a phone. I think that`s part of why that
cell phone is important. Because the injuries that we`re seeing here
were akin to a high speed crash.
One other interesting note that Dr. Cushing made earlier, Lawrence, is
that what they also saw when they came -- when people came here to
Temple were a lot of John and Jane Does because, as you can imagine, in
the moment, people weren`t exactly having time to grab their bag, their
purse, their identification. A lot of people came here without I.D.,
without being able to be identified until they could reach family and
And a lot of people without their medical cards, a lot of people without
the obvious ability to pay for their care. So there`s been a lot of
interaction with Amtrak officials who`ve been and trying to just put
names to the people that were here and make sure that they could get
O`DONNELL: Joy, I just want to add one fact to this reporting conflict
that`s developing tonight over exactly what the engineer said or didn`t
say to the police. In the original report of the "Philadelphia
Inquirer," they`re actually citing Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey in
their report. They`re saying that the engineer declined to give a
statement to police investigators and he left the detectives with an
Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said. So that`s directly
attributed to the police commissioner. We don`t have specific sourcing
on the other report indicating that he was interviewed, and they expect
to interview him again, that he handed over his cell phone and a blood
sample. We`re not sure what the sourcing is on that. But we`re going
to be following that.
Joy Reid, thank you very much for that report from the hospital. Thanks
for joining us, Joy.
REID: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the day after the crash, today, House Republicans
voted to cut Amtrak`s budget.
O`DONNELL: Last night`s Amtrak crash occurred the night before the
House Appropriations Committee had a vote scheduled on Amtrak funding.
When the vote was called this afternoon on a party line vote, the
Republican majority voted to cut Amtrak`s budget by one-fifth. Before
the vote, Republicans said it was unfair to even mention the crash in
relation to Amtrak funding after Congressman Steve Israel said that
budget cuts have a direct impact on safety.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: Last night, we failed
them. We failed to invest in their safety. We failed to make their
safety a priority. I was disappointed to hear my colleague from New
York a few minutes ago. Talk about the tragedy that occurred with
Amtrak and suggest that because we had not funded this properly, that
that`s what caused the accident. When you have no idea, no idea, what
caused this accident.
The fact of the matter is that there have been more and more accidents,
increased levels of danger, bridges failing, train accidents, longer
delays at airports as a direct result of our divestments from
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: It was just a few hours after that that Robert Sumwalt of
the NTSB said this in Philadelphia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT SUMWALT, NTSB BOARD MEMBER: 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
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Ezra Klein, editor-in-chief of vox.com, and
Robert Pottroff, an attorney who specializes in railroad safety.
Ezra, in the House of Representatives today, it was considered off base
to even refer to this accident in funding Amtrak.
EZRA KLEIN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, VOX.COM: Yes, it is not something
Republicans wanted to hear on the floor today. Look, I mean, to their
point, their vote was scheduled for a long time. They have long been
planning to cut Amtrak`s funding. They plan to cut Amtrak`s funding
every single year and you can`t draw a straight line between a cut that
hadn`t happened yet and the disaster we saw the other night.
What you can say, though, is that we have systemically done a terrible
job funding not just Amtrak, but American infrastructure more probably.
Amtrak in particular you have incredibly strong ridership on that
Northeastern Corridor. But because we have not figured out what we want
that train system to be, we actually take the money from Northeastern
Corridor and use it to subsidize Amtrak and the rest of the country and
then Congress gets furious at Amtrak because it doesn`t make any money.
And then it cuts its funding even further because it`s apparently not
delivering on its goals.
You can have a world class rail system and you can have world class
infrastructure, but you have to pay for it. And right now not only are
we not paying for it, but as you see, with the continuous inability to
pass a surface transportation bill of any length at all, we haven`t even
figured a process by which we can rationally do infrastructure planning
in the long run.
So it`s not just about Amtrak but this was one of the worst examples of
where our insufficient rail system hurt us and it created a tragedy.
But it`s a broader lack of investment and also just lack of general
planning around American infrastructure in general.
O`DONNELL: Robert Pottroff, do you agree with the NTSB that if we had
positive train control on that section of track this probably wouldn`t
ROBERT POTTROFF, EXPERT ON RAIL SAFETY: Absolutely. Positive train
control has been on the NTSB`s most wanted list for about 45 years.
Positive train control would have stopped this accident. But there`s so
many other simple things, like just having two crew members in the cab
of that locomotive that could have had the same result.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And that, Robert, is obviously a budget item. You
know, when I hear the discussion of Amtrak funding, it seems to me
pretty much everything other than, you know, funding involving the
ticketing system is a matter of safety. And even tonight, we`re
recognizing that in the ticketing system, we need a kind of clarity that
really does tell us exactly who was on that train so we know when to
stop searching for survivors. So in the Amtrak funding, I think it`s
extremely difficult to find an area of the funding where you can clearly
identify as having nothing to do with safety.
POTTROFF: It is -- it`s beyond logic to understand why freight
railroads that haul just freight have an engineer and a conductor with
two sets of eyes on the track and two sets of eyes on all the signal
that are there to prevent these types of accidents. And for some
reason, the passenger lines like Amtrak are allowed to have just an
engineer. You`re putting one person on an island and expecting perfect
behavior out of that person and that`s your safety system.
Without a backup that`s mechanical based upon the technology of positive
train control or at least another set of eyes, you can predict these
accidents. This is exactly the same thing that happened in Chatsworth,
California, back in 2006, September. One person stuck on an island,
required to behave perfectly and any mistake is fatal for everybody on
O`DONNELL: And what was the mistake that the engineer made in that
POTTROFF: In that case, he simply missed a signal because he was
texting on his phone. We immediately kicked into action and got
legislation that would outlaw texting on your phone but we don`t know
what Mr. Bastion was doing in this case. What we do know is that he was
there alone, he was running on a track that was -- had an internal speed
limit of 75 -- or 70 miles per hour.
But the truth is, the class one railroads, which would include Amtrak,
have always taken the position that they don`t have to follow their own
internal speed limit. The track speed limits there are as high as 110
to 125 miles an hour before you get to that curve. So what that
engineer was doing is part of his training. And the cab signals that
had to go off when he went by the indicator had to have been turned off
for this train to keep moving.
O`DONNELL: The --
POTTROFF: The train has --
O`DONNELL: Explain that, Mr. Pottroff. Explain that. What are the cab
signals you`re talking about?
POTTROFF: Every train has cab signals. They`re not unlike the signal
in your car when you forget to buckle your seatbelt. There`ll be an
alarm that goes off, a light that flashes and a buzzer. The difference
is on a train, if you don`t address the problem that set off the alarm,
and in this case the alarm would be an overspeed alarm. If you don`t
address it within X amount of seconds the train will stop itself.
That`s the way it`s designed to work.
Now there`s another thing that`s designed into that same system that
nobody has talked about. The FRA has not talked about, the NTSB has not
talked about. And Amtrak has not talked about. They equip these trains
with an override switch where you could turn off the cab signals. That
had to be what happened in this case. That the engineer -- and it`s a
common practice when there`s a problem that they don`t want to be
bothered by the cab signals, has another toggle switch available to
They simply pull out the little seal that protects that toggle switch,
turn it off. And you`re not bothered by any of these signals that were
there to warn you.
O`DONNELL: So this is as if your car, which has that alarm, the bell
signal or something that tells you, someone doesn`t have a seatbelt
fasten, it`s as if in your car you had a switch where you could just
turn that off.
POTTROFF: Right. Plus the added component in your car but it didn`t
buckle your seatbelt within a few second it`d stopped. Until you
buckled your seatbelt, you couldn`t move further. And --
O`DONNELL: Robert -- Mr. Pottroff, I have to ask you. I`m stunned that
I`m learning this 24 hours after the fact of this crash. I`ve been
watching all the coverage, I`ve been reading everything I can. I
haven`t heard the NTSB mentioned this. I`ve heard no investigator
mentioned this, that there is actually an automatic shutoff system in
the train for excessive speed. It is there. Not one word that I`m
aware of has been said publicly by the investigators about that yet.
POTTROFF: That`s why I wanted so badly to come on here and talk about
this. Up that track, a half a mile to a mile away is a wayside signal.
And it`s just a little transmitter that tells that train if it`s going
too fast, the overspeed alarm goes off. If the alarm is not addressed
then the train shuts down on its own. Unless someone has hit the
override. And those overrides will be used in times where you have to
make up speed, they`ll be used in times where equipment is
O`DONNELL: Well, let me -- Mr. Pottroff, let me stop you right there
for a second. This train had already been delayed. So this was a train
with an incentive to make up speed.
POTTROFF: Well, I didn`t know that information until right now. That
makes total sense. There should be an immediate investigation into the
dispatch logs. All of those phone calls and radio transmissions have to
be recorded. That will tell you whether or not people higher up in
Amtrak knew that there was someone trying to make up speed.
O`DONNELL: When do you expect to hear that kind of information
POTTROFF: Unfortunately, I`ve been a party to too many NTSB reports
with the FRA. The relationship of the FRA and the Class One Railroads
is too close. You can`t expect the fox and the guard dog to give a fair
explanation as to what happened to all the chickens in the chicken coop.
There`s been volumes written about this relationship and the failure of
these investigations to get to the root causes.
And the root cause here is if you take away the automated safety devices
and you take away the backup human being, you`re asking for these
accidents. And they will continue to happen.
O`DONNELL: Robert Pottroff, thank you very much for that. I think we
just learned more about what`s possible in these trains than anything of
our previous coverage in the last 24 hours. Thank you very much for
Ezra Klein, thanks for joining us, too.
We`re going to take a break here. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just we were sitting there and then it just -- you
saw it go like that. You could feel it off the track and then we just
rolled and rolled. And the next thing I knew, we were pushing out the
emergency exit. And I was outside and there were people screaming and
bleeding and we helped them out. And they`re OK now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: You`re looking at live images in Philadelphia where crews
are working to clear the wreckage of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train
188. We`re joined now by a survivor from yesterday`s Amtrak crash, Paul
Chung, he`s the director of Interactive and Digital News for the
Paul, thanks for joining us again tonight. You got on the phone with us
last night. It was very helpful to understand what was going on. When
you look at the train wreckage today, can you figure out which car you
PAUL CHUNG, DIRECTOR OF INTERACTIVE AND DIGITAL NEWS, ASSOCIATED PRESS:
As a matter of fact, yes, I was the third car to the end. You know,
last night when, you know, I`m just minding my own business and suddenly
it`s like someone had just slammed on a brake, a hard brake, and the car
come to a halt. The whole car started shaking around. Everything went
dark. People were, you know, screaming and panicking and I was like,
whoa, what`s going on here?
And suddenly when it stopped, I noticed that, you know, again, it was
extremely dark and people just trying to gather their stuff, you know,
and suddenly I heard a voice, you know, behind me saying that you need
to get out now. Get out from the back. And, again, all of us who were
nearby me, we`re just trying to gather our things, backpacks, cell
phones being the most important, a lot of people were just looking for
their cell phones so they could contact their family and loved ones.
By that time, we starts smelling smoke in our car and that`s when I knew
I really had to leave that car. So when I jumped out, that`s when I got
a -- you know, a panoramic view of how bad the damage was. You know,
from where I was standing, it just happened in a quick flash. You don`t
really know was going on. You know, it`s almost like you`re in a movie,
you know, that really fast, at the same time, in a slow moment when your
body just kind of moves with the momentum of the cart.
As we left the car, it was just -- again, it was a very surreal scene
that I`m seeing that. You know, I`m seeing cars that`s flipped to the
side, I`m seeing passengers try to climb out from the window. I see
wreckage just everywhere as if, you know, someone had just tear the cars
apart and mangle it into a giant metal ball. And you see chairs
everywhere and you see some people helping other folks to get out the
debris and a lot of people just walking around confused and shocked.
O`DONNELL: And, Paul, we`ve been showing some of the pictures that you
took last night. The big question of the day is that sensation of
speed. I talked to survivors of the crash last night and no one said
anything about it felt like it was going at a very high rate of speed.
Most everyone felt it was at a normal speed. When you hear today that
the instruments indicate that it was over 100 miles an hour, was that
surprising to you?
CHUNG: It was surprising to me. Again, I think, you know, I wasn`t
paying attention. It seems normal. It seems -- you know, as they`re
going for some kind of curve. You feel the natural vibration of the
car. And suddenly, bam, everything kind of happened.
O`DONNELL: And were you injured at all, Paul?
CHUNG: I was one of the really lucky ones that I didn`t really -- you
know, just a few scrapes and a bruised knee.
O`DONNELL: And how long did it take for you to realize after the fact
that you were OK, that everything was working, your arms, your legs,
your hands, your feet?
CHUNG: I would say immediately. As soon as it stopped, you know, the
first action is, you know, I turned on the flashlight in my cell phone,
just asking people, are you guys OK? And some people say I need to find
my phone and just kind of figuring out where am I in the car? Because I
can`t really see anything in front of me. All I could see was the back
O`DONNELL: Paul Chung, thank you for sharing your story with us. Thank
you for helping us out with this coverage. Thanks very much.
CHUNG: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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