Two CSX Transportation workers had stepped off a freight train from Baltimore for a maintenance check when they were fatally struck on the adjacent tracks by an Amtrak train near Washington's Union Station late Tuesday night, causing widespread delays along the Northeast Corridor on Wednesday, officials said.
An alert from a dispatcher about one of the freight train's wheels prompted the train to stop and the workers to get off to check its status, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the incident.
"Two crew members from the CSX train crossed onto an active track," where they were struck about 11:30 p.m. by a southbound Amtrak train No. 175, NTSB board member Earl Weener said at a news conference. CSX declined to release their names, "out of respect for the privacy of their families."
Amtrak service resumed Wednesday morning with trains operating at restricted speeds of 10 mph, although the railroad cautioned customers to expect "residual delays." MARC service was "severely impacted throughout the day," the Maryland Transit Administration said. On Wednesday afternoon, the MTA said MARC trains would be at full service but with some residual delays from 10 minutes to an hour.
"Our thoughts are with the families and friends of our employees," CSX said in a statement.
Rolanda Chambers had arrived at the station at 3:15 a.m. for a pre-dawn train to New York.
Chambers, 50, a West Baltimore travel agent at Golden Voyage Travel, had planned to attend a regional training conference. The registration was at 7:30 a.m., but her train schedule kept getting pushed back, worrying her that she'd miss the conference and be fined $100.
"They said about 7:45," she said. "Now it's 8:15."
Kathy Weinberg, Terry Zimlin, Ava Lenet and Elaine Katz sat in the station crossing their fingers that a train would come in time to get them for a 2 p.m. Broadway show, "War Paint," starring Tony Award winners Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole.
They had a lunch reservation at Bryant Park Grill, but had resigned themselves to missing it as the morning passed.
"We're just hoping we'll get there in time for the show," said Katz, 70, of Pikesville.
"I'm just here to enjoy the day," Zimlin said. "Whatever happens, happens."
John Willis, 43, who works for Cigna Health Insurance, had flown into Baltimore Monday for meetings early in the week and was headed to Philadelphia Wednesday morning for more before his flight home to Birmingham, Ala., on Thursday.
The first meeting was set for 11 a.m., he said.
"Maybe I'll make it," he said. "I'm not really sure. ... Considering the circumstances, you can't really complain about the delay."
Maxine Thompson's grandson played SurvivorCraft on his Amazon Kindle while they waited for a train to Dillon, S.C.
Thompson, 67, of Glendale, said they planned to visit family in Fairmont, N.C., and spend the Fourth of July weekend in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Asked how long her 8:50 a.m. train might be delayed, she said, "I have no idea."
"I haven't been up to the desk to inquire," she said. "Just have to be patient. Patience and prayer — the two P's."
Elizabeth Cross used the delay to do some work on her laptop at Penn Station Wednesday morning.
Cross, 50, a physical therapy supervisor at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, splits her time between homes in Philadelphia and Charles Village. Her 6:13 a.m. train was delayed more than two hours.
"Fortunately, all my appointments were this afternoon," she said. "If I can get there by noon, that would be great. My first patient is at 1."
Karen Magness, 53, of Glen Burnie, just started a new job in financial services and had a 5:30 a.m. ticket to New York for training. The train was hours late, with no departure time in sight. But she decided there was no point in complaining.
"I put on my patient hat," she said. "The situation is what it is. A bad attitude is not going to make the train run faster."