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Amtrak train was going 106 mph when emergency brakes applied

The Amtrak train that crashed in Philadelphia, killing at least seven people, was hurtling at 106 mph before it ran off the rails along a sharp curve where the speed limit drops to just 50 mph, federal investigators said Wednesday.

The engineer applied the emergency brakes moments before the crash but slowed the train to only 102 mph by the time the locomotive's black box stopped recording data, said Robert Sumwalt, of the National Transportation Safety Board. The speed limit just before the bend is 80 mph, he said.

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The engineer, whose name was not released, refused to give a statement to law enforcement and left a police precinct with a lawyer, police said. Sumwalt said federal accident investigators want to talk to him but will give him a day or two to recover from the shock of the accident.

Mayor Michael Nutter said there was "no way in the world" the engineer should have been going that fast into the curve.

"Clearly he was reckless and irresponsible in his actions," Nutter told CNN. "I don't know what was going on with him, I don't know what was going on in the cab, but there's really no excuse that could be offered."

More than 200 people aboard the Washington-to-New York train were injured in the wreck, which happened in a decayed industrial neighborhood not far from the Delaware River just before 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. Passengers crawled out the windows of the torn and toppled rail cars in the darkness and emerged dazed and bloody, many of them with broken bones and burns.

It was the nation's deadliest train accident in nearly seven years.

Amtrak suspended all service until further notice along the Philadelphia-to-New York stretch of the nation's busiest rail corridor as investigators examined the wreckage and the tracks and gathered evidence. The shutdown snarled the commute and forced thousands of people to find other ways to reach their destinations.

The dead included an Associated Press employee, a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, a Wells Fargo executive, a college administrator and the CEO of an educational startup. At least 10 people remained hospitalized in critical condition.

Nutter said some people were unaccounted for but cautioned that some passengers listed on the Amtrak manifest might not have boarded the train, while others might not have checked in with authorities.

"We will not cease our efforts until we go through every vehicle," the mayor said.

He said rescuers expanded the search area and were using dogs to look for victims in case someone was thrown from the wreckage.

The NTSB finding about the train's speed corroborated an AP analysis done earlier in the day of surveillance video from a spot along the tracks. The AP concluded from the footage that the train was speeding at approximately 107 mph moments before it entered the curve.

Despite pressure from Congress and safety regulators, Amtrak had not installed along that section of track Positive Train Control, a technology that uses GPS, wireless radio and computers to prevent trains from going over the speed limit. Most of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor is equipped with 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," Sumwalt said.

The notoriously tight curve is not far from the site of one of the deadliest train wrecks in U.S. history: the 1943 derailment of the Congressional Limited, bound from Washington to New York. Seventy-nine people were killed.

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Amtrak inspected the stretch of track on Tuesday, just hours before the accident, and found no defects, the Federal Railroad Administration said. Besides the data recorder, the train had a video camera in its front end that could yield clues to what happened, Sumwalt said.

As for the engineer, Sumwalt said: "This person has gone through a very traumatic event, and we want to give him an opportunity to convalesce for a day or so before we interview him. But that is certainly a high priority for us, to interview the train crew."

The crash took place about 10 minutes after the train pulled out of Philadelphia's 30th Street Station with 238 passengers and five crew members listed aboard. The locomotive and all seven passenger cars hurtled off the track as the train made a left turn, Sumwalt said.

Jillian Jorgensen was seated in the second passenger car and said the train was going "fast enough for me to be worried" when it began to lurch to the right. Then the lights went out, and Jorgensen was thrown from her seat.

She said she "flew across the train" and landed under some seats that had apparently broken loose from the floor.

Jorgensen, a reporter for The New York Observer who lives in Jersey City, New Jersey, said she wriggled free as fellow passengers screamed. She saw one man lying still, his face covered in blood, and a woman with a broken leg.

She climbed out an emergency exit window, and a firefighter helped her down a ladder to safety.

"It was terrifying and awful, and as it was happening it just did not feel like the kind of thing you could walk away from, so I feel very lucky," Jorgensen said in an email. "The scene in the car I was in was total disarray, and people were clearly in a great deal of pain."

Among the dead were award-winning AP video software architect Jim Gaines, a father of two; Justin Zemser, a Naval Academy midshipman from New York City; Abid Gilani, a senior vice president in Wells Fargo's commercial real estate division in New York; Derrick Griffith, dean of student affairs and enrollment management at Medgar Evers College in New York; and Rachel Jacobs, who was commuting home to New York from her new job as CEO of the Philadelphia educational software startup ApprenNet.

Several victims were rolled away on stretchers. Others wobbled as they walked away or were put on buses.

"It's incredible that so many people walked away from that scene last night," the mayor said. "I saw people on this street behind us walking off of that train. I don't know how that happened, but for the grace of God."

The area where the wreck happened is known as Frankford Junction, situated in a neighborhood of warehouses, industrial buildings and homes.

Amtrak carries 11.6 million passengers a year along its busy Northeast Corridor, which runs between Washington and Boston.

Profiles of Philadelphia Amtrak train derailment victims

Jim Gaines

Jim Gaines, an Associated Press video software architect, was a geek's geek — and his colleagues loved him for it.

The 48-year-old father of two was named the news agency's Geek of the Month in May 2012 for his "tireless dedication and contagious passion" to technological innovation.

"At AP, not a frame goes by in the world of video that escapes the passionate scrutiny of video architect Jim Gaines," the award said.

Gaines was in the train's quiet car, headed home to Plainsboro, New Jersey, after meetings Tuesday at the news agency's Washington, D.C., office. His wife, Jacqueline, confirmed his death.

"Jim was more precious to us than we can adequately express," his family said in a statement.

Gaines joined the AP in 1998 and was a key factor in nearly all of the news agency's video initiatives, including the successful rollout of high-definition video and the AP's Video Hub — a service that provides live video to hundreds of clients around the world.

In 2006, Gaines' team won the Chairman's Prize in 2006 for development of the agency's Online Video Network.

Gaines "leaves behind a legacy of professionalism and critical accomplishment, kindness and humor," AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt told employees in an email. "He will be missed."

He is also survived by a 16-year-old son, Oliver, and an 11-year-old daughter, Anushka.

Justin Zemser

Justin Zemser, a popular student leader and athlete, was on a break from the U.S. Naval Academy and heading home to Rockaway Beach, New York, where playing high school football helped him and his teammates through the devastation of Superstorm Sandy.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus called Zemser a "crucial member" of the institution.

The 20-year-old's family released a statement mourning "a loving son, nephew and cousin who was very community-minded." They said the tragedy "has shocked us all in the worst way."

Zemser was in his second year. He served as vice president of the Jewish Midshipmen Club and played wide receiver on the academy's sprint football team.

At Channel View School for Research, Zemser was valedictorian, student government president and captain of the football team.

Sandy shuttered the school building for two months, but he and his teammates salvaged their season, returning to the field for a final game in Staten Island two weeks after the storm.

Zemser mentored younger students, and he and a classmate even took it upon themselves to analyze Channel View's SAT data and give presentations on how to prepare students better, then-Principal Pat Tubridy recalled.

"He was so committed, and yet so easygoing," she said.

Outside school, Zemser interned for New York City Councilman Eric Ulrich and former Councilman James Sanders. Ulrich called him "truly a bright, talented and patriotic young man."

Zemser also volunteered with a church program, a soup kitchen and a nursing home and mentored children with autism, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said. Schumer and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks nominated Zemser to the Naval Academy, and Meeks was struck by his "high character, intellectual curiosity, and maturity beyond his years."

Abid Gilani

Abid Gilani, a senior vice president in the Hospitality Finance Group for Wells Fargo in New York City, had been with the company for just about a year, according to his LinkedIn page.

A company spokeswoman said Gilani is one of seven confirmed deaths in Tuesday night's Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia.

"Our hearts go out to all those impacted by this tragedy," a statement read.

Before joining Wells Fargo, Gilani had been with Marriott International for eight years.

The company said Gilani, originally from Canada, split his time between Washington and New York. He was a married father of two.

Rachel Jacobs

Rachel Jacobs, a leader in the increasingly technology-driven worker training and development industry, was commuting home to New York from her new job as CEO of the Philadelphia educational software startup ApprenNet.

The 39-year-old mother of two previously worked at McGraw-Hill, leading the expansion of the company's career-learning business into China, India and the Middle East, and Ascend Learning, another education-technology firm.

Jacobs is the daughter of Gilda Jacobs, a former Michigan state senator and current chief executive of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The family said in a statement that Rachel Jacobs "was a wonderful mother, daughter, sister, wife and friend" who was devoted to family and social justice.

She was a founder and board chair at Detroit Nation, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting startups in her Michigan hometown.

Through the organization, Jacobs helped bring the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to New York for its first concert at Carnegie Hall in 17 years.

She attended Swarthmore College and Columbia Business School. She joined ApprenNet in March and had planned on moving to Philadelphia.

Derrick Griffith

Derrick Griffith, dean of student affairs and enrollment management at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York, believed in education — for himself as well as others.

He formerly was a school principal and in 2003 he founded the City University of New York Preparatory Transitional High School. He also was executive director of Groundwork. Inc., an organization formed to support young people living in high poverty urban communities.

Griffith joined Medgar Evers College in 2011 as assistant provost. It was the first of a number of roles he would fill at the college, where officials said he urged students to pursue education "with vigor."

A month ago, the 42-year-old received a doctorate of philosophy in urban education from the City University of New York Graduate Center.

Those missing included:

Bob Gildersleeve

Bob Gildersleeve, who's from Maryland, is believed to have been on the Amtrak train that derailed. He has worked for Ecolab for 22 years and lives near Baltimore, company spokesman Roman Blahoski said.

Gildersleeve's family was in Philadelphia, circulating his photo and information about what he was wearing. He had a ticket for the train that crashed Tuesday, his father said, and relatives have been unable to get information from Amtrak on his whereabouts.

Gildersleeve is married and has two children, ages 16 and 13. The younger son was in Philadelphia with his grandfather to look for him.

Associated Press

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