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Amtrak Victims Remembered During Memorial Service


Amtrak trains are running again between Philadelphia and New York. The line was closed for almost a week after a passenger train derailed. Last night, people paused in Philadelphia to remember the dead as NPR's Jeff Brady reports.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman, standing just blocks from where Train 188 derailed, choked up as he began his remarks.


JOSEPH BOARDMAN: Last Tuesday was the worst day for me as a transportation professional.

BRADY: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx directed this comment to the families of the eight people who died.


ANTHONY FOXX: We will honor them by making sure this never happens again, and we start today.

BRADY: Across the tracks in the Harrowgate neighborhood, some residents here ran to help passengers the night of the accident. Sitting on her front porch, Adele Lafferty says this past week, her block has been very busy.

ADELE LAFFERTY: I think I've seen every news van in the world (laughter) - in the country - come past our house.

BRADY: Lafferty says the neighborhood has started to return to normal, though she says the derailment still dominates conversations.

LAFFERTY: Everywhere you go, that's all they're talking about is what happened. They can't believe it. They're in, like, a bus stop - I was waiting for a bus earlier. That's all anybody's talking about.

BRADY: The investigation into what caused the Amtrak train to derail continues. Investigators want to know why the train increased speed to 106 miles per hour as it was entering a 50-miles-per-hour curve. The National Transportation Safety Board says the engineer doesn't remember anything just before the accident.

Last Friday, a new wrinkle was added when NTSB investigators interviewed an assistant conductor. She told them she heard the engineer just before the accident say over the radio that the train had been hit by something, but speaking with George Stephanopoulos on ABC "This Week," Robert Sumwalt of the NTSB offered new information.


ROBERT SUMWALT: We interviewed the dispatchers, and we listened to the dispatch tape. And we heard no communications at all from the Amtrak engineer to the dispatch center to say that something had struck his train.


SUMWALT: Nothing at all - nothing at all that he reported to the dispatch center.

BRADY: On Saturday, the Federal Railroad Administration ordered Amtrak to make safety improvements along the busy Northeast corridor. The railroad must install technology at the derailment site that slows down speeding trains. The FRA also wants Amtrak to analyze all curves in the track for safety improvements and put up more speed limit signs. Meanwhile, some of the dozens of passengers injured in the accident last Tuesday remain in local hospitals. A few are still in critical condition, but all are expected to survive. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Brady
Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues, climate change and the mid-Atlantic region. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.