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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter; Jeb Bush Under Fire; Philadelphia Train Crash Investigation. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired May 13, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: breaking news.
Excessive speed. Officials say this Amtrak train was going more than twice the speed limit before it derailed. Investigators are analyzing the so-called black boxes. We will get the latest from a member of the National Transportation Safety Board. He's on the scene in Philadelphia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still have multiple rescues to be made. Oh, yes, a lot of patients in an area where the tracks are still hot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Seven people confirmed dead. Hundreds are injured, some passengers still missing. We have dramatic new video of the twisted wreckage.
Travel nightmare, critical portions of the country's busiest rail route now closed. Travelers in the Northeast Corridor are scrambling to make alternate plans, overwhelming airlines and bus companies. When will the trains start rolling again?
Letting it slip. Jeb Bush inadvertently announces his run for president of the United States, as he gets hit on all sides over his mixed messages on the Iraq War. Will the blunders hurt his campaign before it officially begins?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We are following breaking news, disturbing new information about that deadly Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia.
The National Transportation Safety Board has just revealed that the train from Washington, D.C., to New York City was going 106 miles an hour -- that's more than twice the speed limit -- just before it flew off the tracks. Investigators also say the engineer applied full emergency brakes, but they only slowed the train to under two miles an hour before all seven cars derailed.
The death toll has climbed to at least seven. Some passengers are missing. More than 200 are injured. We are standing by for a news conference by the Philadelphia mayor and the Pennsylvania governor this hour. We will have live coverage. We are covering all angles of the breaking news this hour with our correspondents and our guests, including the National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt.
CNN's Rene Marsh is in Philadelphia. She begins our breaking news coverage this hour.
Rene, what is the latest you are hearing and seeing there on the ground?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I can tell you that this is still a recovery operation.
But when that engineer stepped on the brakes, this train was already going at 106 miles per hour. That's more than double the speed limit in this area. That is the headline coming from the NTSB. Now a full-blown investigation is under way to figure out why this train was going so dangerously fast.
MARSH (voice-over): Investigators believe the train was traveling over 100 miles per hour as it approached a curve with a 50- mile-per-hour speed limit. Seven train cars jumped the tracks.
ROBERT SUMWALT, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD MEMBER: The train was placed into engineer-induced braking. This means that the engineer applied a full emergency brake application.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep crawling, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where am I crawling to?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Crawl forward, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep crawling.
MARSH: Inside the train, passengers made a desperate attempt to escape from New York-bound Amtrak Train 188.
BETH DAVIDZ, SURVIVOR: The car started to fill with smoke. So, obviously, we were all trying to get out of the car. I remember somebody in the car just saying, you know, stay calm.
MARSH: Surveillance video obtained by CNN shows the train just moments before the fatal crash. You see it passing by, then flashes of light.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Notify Amtrak to shut down the entire Northeast Corridor. We have a major event here. We're going to classify this as a mass casualty incident.
MARSH: People on board say, as the train passed through Philadelphia and negotiated the turn, the train started to shake.
The train's black box has been recovered. It will tell investigators exactly how fast the train was traveling. Attention now shifts to the engineer who was steering the train.
SUMWALT: This person has gone through a very traumatic event. And we want to give him an opportunity to -- to convalesce for a day or so before we interview him.
MARSH: Back at the site, the primary focus hours after the fatal crash was treating those who made it out alive.
DAVIDZ: At first, I was just like kind of like, whoa, what just happened kind of thing, and just -- I mean, just being glad that you're like -- it stopped, you're alive. OK, now what?
MARSH: Now, Wolf, the focus is now on this engineer who was steering this train. We know that he was injured. He did receive medical attention. But we heard from the NTSB they have not had the opportunity to interview him yet. And they do want that, Wolf, so that is next.
BLITZER: They certainly, certainly would like to interview the engineer who was in charge. All right, thanks very much, Rene.
I want to bring in the mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, who is joining us now live.
Mayor, I know you have got a lot -- lot going on right now. Thanks very much for taking some time.
MICHAEL NUTTER (D), MAYOR OF PHILADELPHIA: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: First of all, has everyone been accounted for, as far as you know, because we had heard that some of the passengers were still missing?
NUTTER: Well, we are going through a process, Wolf, where we received the passenger manifest from Amtrak.
And we are comparing that to all the folks we know got off the train, that we treated at hospitals or are otherwise accounted for. The challenge here is that we are not exactly sure if everyone who was on that manifest was actually on the train. Just because someone bought a ticket doesn't mean they actually got on the train.
Secondly, some of the folks who we may have transported last night did not necessarily check in to say that they are who they are or that they are OK. And so we are trying to resolve that kind of situation. And that's a person-by-person analysis. So, the search- and-rescue portion with the Philadelphia Fire Department, with police department assistance, continues, while at the same time, we check through all the paperwork, all the manifests, all the documents to see if we can account for everyone and actually know who, specifically, were all the people on that Train Number 188 last night.
BLITZER: All right, let's find out. And I'm sure you will update us. Once you know, we will know.
BLITZER: The train was now traveling, we are told by the NTSB, about 106 miles an hour going into that curve. it shouldn't have gone faster than 50 miles an hour. Was this a human error, a mechanical error? What are you hearing?
NUTTER: Well, I don't know that NTSB has made that kind of pronouncement.
But I will say is that, clearly, it was reckless in terms of the driving by the engineer. There's no way in the world that he should have been going that fast into the curve. I mean, most of the time, the regional rail, I have been on that train a million times coming out of D.C., that 7:10, and, you know, maybe you are doing 100 or so on the straightaway.
But there's no way in the world a regional train should be doing 106 on a curve and one that is rated at 50 miles an hour. So, clearly, he was reckless and irresponsible in his actions. 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, literally, unless he had a heart attack. And he went to the hospital, we interviewed him, and he was released.
So, that doesn't appear to be one of the reasons. And so, there can be no reasonable, rational explanation for why you are doing 106 on a 50-mile-an-hour-rated curve.
BLITZER: Somebody said to me, and I don't know if this is accurate or not, but I will run it by you and ask you, Mayor, because I know you are all over this, on top of this. You say 7:10. That's what time this regional Amtrak is supposed to leave Washington Union Station, at 7:10 p.m.
BLITZER: But I'm told yesterday from people who were on that train it was delayed and it left late. And there is some speculation out there, Mayor, that maybe the engineer was trying to make up time, that's why he was going so fast. Have you heard that?
NUTTER: I have heard that same story.
But, again, I mean, I mean, you almost have to be an idiot to -- even if you are trying to make up time, to be doing 106 on a curve, as opposed to maybe on a straightaway. And so, I mean, that is not acceptable under any set of circumstances. I mean, look, let's be reasonable.
People know from time to time a train might leave late. A plane might leave late. But you don't do reckless things. You don't endanger passengers by trying to make up time. I'm sure the seven people who lost their lives that we have confirmed, I'm sure they would not have minded being another 20, 25, 30 minutes late, as opposed to dying unnecessarily in a train wreck.
BLITZER: I assume also, Mayor, you have recovered all the bodies on that -- from that train wreck. You have gone through all the cars, all of the area around the cars. There are no other bodies out there; is that right?
NUTTER: I cannot confirm that, Wolf, only because the actual search-and-rescue process continues. We have widened the area.
About maybe 45 minutes or so ago now, we sent out another 25 Philadelphia police officers and supervisors in a widened search area to continue to look. We will not rest, we will not stop. We will maintain our focus on trying to get as much information as possible about search-and-rescue capacity. And until we are firmly convinced that we have searched every possible place, we will not end those efforts.
BLITZER: Mayor, as you know, there's something called positive train control that's supposed to be able to make sure a train does not go 100 miles an hour into a 50-mile-an-hour curve.
BLITZER: But in this particular area in Philadelphia, it was not in place. And we have now heard from the NTSB, Robert Sumwalt. He's in charge of this investigation right now. Our own Peter Goelz, a former NTSB managing director, Deborah Hersman, they want this. Why isn't this in effect right now in Philadelphia?
NUTTER: Well, I have to be honest with you, Wolf. Until earlier today, I had never heard that term in my life.
But the issue for the moment is, certainly, you want to have as many safety devices on a train or plane or cars or whatever the case may be. I don't know that we are the only place in the entire Amtrak system that doesn't have this particular device. I'm going to leave that for the moment to the folks at Amtrak and NTSB and Federal Railway Administration to sort through that.
Obviously, it's something that you want to have. But, for today, I'm going to maintain my focus on search and recovery, reunifying people with their loved ones and making sure that we have found all the passengers who were on that train and, you know, will -- I will fully engage in the debate from a public policy and politics standpoint about safety equipment and the like on another day.
But, for today, we are going to respectfully, you know, mourn the loss of life and the injury to all those passengers.
BLITZER: Yes, I don't know if Philadelphia, this area in Philadelphia is the only area in the Northeast Corridor that doesn't have what is called this positive train control.
And like you, Mayor, I only heard about it for the first time in my life today as well.
BLITZER: But, obviously, it's something that experts have been looking for. They want it. And one of the problems is, it's expensive. And money is, as you know, as a mayor of a major city, it's always, always a problem.
NUTTER: Well, I understand that. But life is priceless. And we need to stay focused as greatly as we can on having these kinds of safety mechanisms.
Again, that's a different fight for another day, and dealing with Congress and budgets and all of those kind of issues. But I think there can be no dispute today, certainly anywhere, regardless of party, regardless of what your level of government is, these kinds of safety features need to be in place. We cannot afford to lose Americans to these kinds of preventable tragedies.
BLITZER: Mayor, good luck to you. I know you have got your hands full. We really what you're doing. Thanks so much for joining us.
NUTTER: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And let's get some more now on what's going on.
Joining us from, the National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt, who is there in Philadelphia also. He is in charge of this investigation.
So, what do you say, Mr. Sumwalt, to what we just heard from Mayor Nutter, that it was just reckless to be going that fast around that curve, 106 miles an hour in a 50-mile-an-hour zone?
SUMWALT: Well, I'm going to distance myself from such remarks.
We are here to conduct a very fact-based, non-emotional investigation. And to make comments like that is inflammatory at this point. We just want to find out what happened, so that we can prevent it from happening again.
BLITZER: Do you think the mayor was wrong in saying that?
SUMWALT: Well, you are not going to hear the NTSB making comments like that. We want to get the facts before we start making judgments.
BLITZER: Is there some sort of mechanical problem that could have caused that train to be going that fast into that curve, as opposed to a human error?
SUMWALT: Well, Wolf, we are here looking at everything. We are going to look at the operation of the train.
We are going to be looking at the mechanical condition of the train itself. We are going to do a brake check. We are going to find out how the operation of the train was. We are going to look at the human factors, the performance around the engineer. We are going to look at everything, the signal system.
We want to understand, just like everybody else does, why was this train doing over twice the allowable speed? That's the key question here and we intend to find out.
BLITZER: We know the train had what's called that forward-facing camera showing what was ahead of the train. It had an event data recorder, the so-called black box, which has been recovered. But why aren't there cameras inside the cabin, so you can see what the engineer is doing, if the engineer dozed off, fell asleep, or whatever?
SUMWALT: Yes, we certainly called for cameras in forward -- cameras inside the locomotive cabs. We have called for inward-facing cameras.
And we have unfortunately had to call for that after tragic accidents. And so we have called for that. We are waiting for the regulatory authorities to act on that recommendation.
BLITZER: What's their excuse?
SUMWALT: Well, I'm going to let you ask them that question. It's not my position to make -- apologize for other federal agencies.
BLITZER: If this area in Philadelphia had what we are all learning about today, what is called these positive train control devices, that automatically would have prevented that train from going that fast into that 50-mile-an-hour curve zone, right?
SUMWALT: That's exactly right, Wolf.
And I want to point out that positive train control has been mandated by Congress to be implemented on this type of rail system by the end of this year.
BLITZER: Why wasn't it in place in Philadelphia?
SUMWALT: Well, that's going to be a key question. We want to find out, why was it in other areas of the Northeast Corridor, on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, but why was it not here? That's a key question. We intend to find out.
BLITZER: Is it just Philadelphia or other places in the Northeast that doesn't have this?
SUMWALT: Well, you are asking great questions. We just got here today. And we -- our investigation is just beginning. And we're -- while we are here, we are collecting what I call the perishable evidence, the information that goes away with the passage of time.
But that's the sort of information we can find out down the road. But we certainly want to find out what percentage of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor has this system? They call it ACSES. That's their name for positive train control. But we want to find out, what percentage of it doesn't have it?
But I also want to point out that, again, Congress has mandated that this system be installed for passenger rail, intercity passenger rail, by the end of this year.
BALDWIN: Is it a matter of money? Is that the problem here? Because I know it's pretty expensive.
SUMWALT: Well, it is expensive, but, there's some technological issues that need to be solved.
But we at the NTSB feel like -- like the system is mature and it's ready to be installed. And most of the railroads are moving forward with it. But most of the railroads, freight railroads, say they are not going to be able to make that statutory deadline. But it's something that the NTSB has called for, for a long, long time. It's been on our most wanted list for a long time.
We feel that it needs to be implemented, because it will prevent the very type of accident that we are talking about here. A year-and- a-half ago, up in Bronx, up in the Bronx, there was an accident where a commuter rail went around a curve too fast and it derailed and claimed four lives. PTC would have prevented that accident.
By the same token, it would have prevented the very type of an accident that we are here to investigate. We think -- we think it's time to have it implemented.
BLITZER: So, that -- there was no positive train control in -- outside of New York City in Westchester when that train derailed going around the curve too quickly; is that right?
SUMWALT: That's exactly right. That was at Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx.
And we have already made a determination that PTC would have prevented that accident. It's designed to prevent four things. And one of the four things is prevent derailments due to overspeeding. So, that is exactly what we are here looking at right now. BLITZER: We are showing our viewers, Mr. Sumwalt, live pictures
of the disaster area in Philadelphia right now. And it is horrendous. You pointed out earlier 238 passengers on those trains, five members, five crew members, 243 people altogether.
As far as you know, has everyone been accounted for?
SUMWALT: Well, I don't want to sound impersonal when I say that's not our lane. We are very concerned about each and every individual on that train.
However, we are here to investigate the accident itself. And figures about accounting for every occupant, that comes under the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management.
BLITZER: We are told -- and our -- we're told that police detectives actually tried to interview the engineer of the train, but he refused and left with a lawyer. Is that right?
SUMWALT: Well, I don't have firsthand information about that. We are interested in interviewing the engineer.
We want to find out his side of the story. It's not uncommon for somebody who has been for -- been through a tragic event like this to need a little bit of time off. And so we would hope to be able to interview the engineer in the next day or so. But that's our -- certainly our hope and that's our desire.
BLITZER: But do you have any reason to believe this engineer will not cooperate?
SUMWALT: I don't have any indication to under -- to believe that one way or the other.
BLITZER: How severely injured is the engineer?
SUMWALT: Well, as you know, Wolf, there's HIPAA law. So, I don't know his condition because the law prohibits the release of medical information about individuals. But we are concerned about him as well as everybody else who has been involved in this tragedy.
BLITZER: We know the NTSB is the lead investigator of what happened here in this disaster. Are you getting full cooperation from the mayor, from state officials, other local officials as far as this investigation is concerned, at least so far?
SUMWALT: Oh, yes.
We are getting great cooperation both from the city of Philadelphia, their first-responders. We appreciate their hard work. And we are getting great cooperation from Amtrak, as well as the Federal Railroad Administration.
BLITZER: Robert Sumwalt is a board member of the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board. He's leading this investigation.
Good luck, Mr. Sumwalt. I know that your mission is to learn what happened, and to try to make sure it doesn't happen again. We are all counting on you and we rely on you for this kind of very, very critically important information. Good luck to you and your team. Thank you very much for joining us.
We are going to have more on the breaking news. We will take a quick break. We will be back in a moment.
BLITZER: Looking at live pictures over here. Look at this. They are trying to clean up this disaster, this train derailment last night, 243 people on board these -- one locomotive, seven passenger cars, 238 passengers, five crew members.
You look at the destruction there, seven people confirmed dead, more than 200 injured, some of them still in critical condition.
Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's on the ground for us in Philadelphia.
Brian, I know you had a chance to speak with one of the survivors. How did that go?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a really compelling account of those moments right after the train derailment from these survivors.
We will give you a look at the train as we look at this passing freight train see. You can still see a glimpse of one of the last cars there perched on its side at about a 45-degree angle. These cars, according to the NTSB, are in the process of being removed and taken to a secure NTSB facility.
We spoke to two of the passengers who were in one of those last cars. One of them, a nurse named Joan Helfman, was on her way back to her home in New Jersey from Washington when the derailment occurred. She described a horrific scene in those immediate moments. She said she was jolted from her seat, that her son, Max, actually caught her. Then he got her off the train. Here is what she had to say about those immediate moments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOAN HELFMAN, SURVIVOR: There was screaming. I was slammed against the window. You know, the car actually turned on its side a little bit.
And then luggage starting flying at me and hit me in my chest and my head. I still haven't come to terms with it. I'm trying to. It's still -- as I said, it's surreal. And I can't quite grasp it yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Joan Helfman suffered a concussion and some broken ribs. Her son, Max, who is 19 years old, also suffered a concussion.
But Joan Helfman and Max say that once he got her out of the train, he went back and pulled out several passengers. They estimate maybe between a dozen and 20 passengers, he helped pull out. But he says that he's no hero. He says that designation goes to the first- responders, Wolf, but a very heroic young man, 19 years old, got his mother out, and then went back and got other passengers out, even though he had suffered a concussion -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, I know you are on the scene talking to the folks over there. We will check with you. Thanks very much.
I want to bring in another expert right now, an Amtrak adviser, the transportation secretary during the Obama administration, Ray LaHood, also a former member of Congress.
Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for joining us.
It's alarming to hear the NTSB say this train went into this curve going 106 miles an hour and it shouldn't have been going more than 50 miles an hour. What does that signal to you, a human error or possibly a mechanical error?
RAY LAHOOD, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: Wolf, I would rather not really get into the idea of who to blame here. That's really up to the professionals.
The NTSB is the most professional organization in government that will be looking into all of this and interviewing the person driving the train and trying to look at the information from the black box. I think it's better, really, just to get all that information, and then hear what the NTSB has to say about it.
I'm not going to lay blame, because I just -- I'm not in a position to do that.
BLITZER: I know you are advising Amtrak right now. What have they said to you about this horrific, horrific derailment?
LAHOOD: You know, I talked to the chairman this morning, Tony Coscia, and he was just getting briefed by a number of people.
And I have not had a chance to talk to him here at the end of the day. But he and I will be in contact over the next several days. And we will hear what he has to say, and then try and be as helpful as possible.
BLITZER: We are all learning a lot about this system called positive train controls, which would automatically prevent a train from going too quickly, too fast into a curve.
And most of the area in the Northeast has this positive train control. But this area in Philadelphia did not. Why not? Do you know?
LAHOOD: You know, I don't know, Wolf.
I know this, that positive train control was something that we worked on a lot when I was at DOT. It was mandated by Congress, so it's actually in the law that positive train control must be implemented, not only by passenger rail, but also by freight rail. It is an expensive item, but -- and I know that Amtrak was very near to having it implemented close to where this accident took place. And -- but I'm not precisely sure what the reason was that it wasn't -- had not been installed at the time of this crash.
BLITZER: Yes, we just heard from Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board that that train in the Bronx that derailed not that long ago, also was going too fast into that curve, and that area also did not have positive train control. It sounds like it should be in effect all over the place.
LAHOOD: Yes, you know, Wolf, it is Amtrak's intention, because it's the law to implement this throughout the system. And it may be that it -- it just hadn't been done at this particular place on the system.
BLITZER: What about putting cameras inside -- inside the locomotives to see what the engineer is up to? Because obviously, if there were a camera in there and it was being recorded, if the engineer dozed off, fell asleep or whatever, that would be obvious. There are a lot of people, including Peter Goelz, the former managing director for the NTSB, a CNN analyst, who says that should be in place. Do you agree?
LAHOOD: I do, Wolf. I think it is a good idea to have cameras. We know that there are cameras in other means of transportation. And -- and I think it probably is a good idea.
But we have to understand this, Wolf: you saw today in Congress where a House committee had the opportunity to restore cuts that were going to be implemented, and they didn't do it. And so cameras cost money. Everything that we're talking about -- positive train control, cameras in there -- you know, people have suggested to me today, you know, what about seatbelts? All of these things cost money. And a lot of money comes from the federal government, Wolf.
And so there has to be an understanding that you have to use your resources wisely. While we were at DOT, we placed a very high priority, if not the No. 1 priority, on safety.
And so I like the idea of cameras. I like the idea of thinking about seatbelts. I'd like to hear what the NTSB has to say about this. But understand, it costs money to do all of these things.
BLITZER: One final question, Mr. Secretary, before I let you go. A lot of folks are worried now about getting on a train. Should they be?
LAHOOD: Absolutely not. I would say that Amtrak has as its highest priority, safety. The FRA, the Federal Railway Administration, has its highest priority. I know the current secretary of transportation. I know everybody involved with train transportation, including those in the freight rail business, have as their No. 1 priority, safety. And people should not be concerned about boarding trains.
BLITZER: All right. Ray LaHood, the former secretary of transportation. Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for joining us.
LAHOOD: Thank you, Wolf. Thank you.
BLITZER: All right. I want our viewers to stand by, because we are continuing to follow the breaking news. We're also investigating a string of Amtrak derailments. This is the tenth one this year alone. Stand by.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, and you can see the results. Take a look at this. These -- this is the devastation caused by the train derailment last night in Philadelphia. Seven passenger cars, one locomotive, 238 passengers, 5 crew members; 243 people on board. Seven people confirmed dead. More than 200 injured. Some still in critical condition.
This is the tenth Amtrak derailment, by the way, this year alone.
Our national correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is investigating the railroad's record for us. Suzanne, what are you finding out?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, like many people, Wolf, who travel or live along the East Coast, very familiar with the Northeast Corridor; take the Amtrak all the time. But for many years, the trend has been a sharp decrease in fatalities traveling by rail. But in recent history, what we have seen is the Federal Railroad Administration has seen a reversal.
Last year, the total number of all railroad fatalities was 813. That is 20 percent higher than just three years ago.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): Tuesday's Amtrak crash is just the latest in a string of horrifying accidents on U.S. rails. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, on average, there have been 31 Amtrak train derailments a year of varying degrees since 2006.
So far, there have been nine this year, prior to the most recent incident.
Some of the deadliest recent crashes have involved commuter trains. In February, just north of New York City, a Metro North commuter train slammed into a vehicle that was stopped on the tracks, killing the driver and six commuters.
In December, 2013, federal safety officials say in the Bronx, another Metro North jumped its tracks as it barreled around a curve, traveling three times the posted speed, killing four.
With more than 11 million passengers traveling along the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston each year, it has become one of the busiest, most complex and technically advanced rail systems in the world.
Engineering Professor George Bibel says, while traveling by train is largely safe, passengers should be more concerned about the state of the tracks than speeding engineers.
GEORGE BIBEL, ENGINEERING PROFESSOR: Well, most derailments are caused by equipment error. Rail problems are a common one. The rails can fracture from metal fatigue, or they can move around and shift or anything else that moves. The common ones are wheels, bearings and axels.
MALVEAUX: Coincidentally, the site of Tuesday's crash in Philadelphia was in in the same area where the nation saw one of its deadliest train accidents in history. In 1943, a train traveling from Washington to New York went off the tracks, killing 79 people.
Amtrak's deadliest accident in history occurred in 1993, in Mobile, Alabama. A tugboat smashed into a river bridge, causing it to collapse, taking the train passing over with it. Forty-seven died.
MALVEAUX: And just moments ago, the NTSB, National Transportation Safety Board, held a press conference, as you know, and told us that Amtrak has a system, the ACSE, Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement, which should have slowed the train down, could have, actually. It's in most of the system, but not this area. If it had been in the system at that area, they believe that this accident would not have occurred -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Suzanne. Thanks very much.
Let's dig deeper now with two guests. Democratic Congressman Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania. The train disaster happened just about a mile outside of his own district. Also with us, the former National Transportation Safety Board member, John Goglia.
Thanks to both of you for joining us.
Mr. Goglia, first to you. The train was traveling 106 miles an hour going into that curve that shouldn't have been going more than 50 miles per hour. How can that happen? What is your assessment?
JOHN GOGLIA, FORMER NTSB MEMBER: Well, we've got to look at two different areas. Did the engineer have the throttles positioned to go that fast? Or did a malfunction occur that had the train essentially running away? And why wasn't there a report, and why wasn't the emergency brake applied earlier?
So we have a lot of unanswered questions at this point in time. But overnight, I'm sure that the NTSB will be digging into the recorders and looking at the physical evidence from the locomotive to try to determine the answers to some of those questions.
BLITZER: We know from the NTSB's Robert Sumwalt, Congressman, that the train was going 106 miles an hour into that curve, that the emergency brakes were applied. It went down to 102 miles per hour, but that's when the derailment occurred. What are you hearing over there? What's your analysis about how this happened?
REP. CHAKA FATTAH (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think all of us are waiting for the National Transportation Safety Board to do its review. I think that it is the very best agency in the world. We shouldn't get too far out in front of it.
Obviously, it is either human or mechanical. But to make a guess now, without their review, I think would be irresponsible.
BLITZER: This is your district, basically, right next door to where this occurred, Congressman. What are you hearing from your constituents over there? They all -- a lot of them like to take the trains to Washington or New York from Philadelphia?
FATTAH: Well, Amtrak is an essential, indispensable service along the Northeast Corridor and many other parts of our country. And we need to be making sure that we invest in the infrastructure and in the safety mechanisms necessary so that millions of passengers can do it and do it safely.
And one of the challenges here in the Congress is that we've been having a battle between a presidential request for dollars and the Congress' desire to cut that. And we think that we need to rework our priorities and invest in American infrastructure.
BLITZER: Yes, we're going to have a lot more on this coming up, including the -- including new information we're getting on the derailment. To both of you guys, stand by. We're going to continue the breaking news. We're coming back. We'll have a live -- this is a live scene, by the way, of that deadly Amtrak disaster. You can see what's going on right now. The investigators, they are there. They are on the scene. Much more right after this.
[18:49:07] BLITZER: We are learning new details about some of the Amtrak victims.
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is working this part of the story for us. She's at Philadelphia's Temple University Hospital.
Sunlen, what are you finding out?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, among those killed was 49-year-old Jim Gaines. He's the father of two. He died here in this hospital behind me early this morning from a chest trauma, a major chest trauma.
In this hospital alone, Wolf, they saw 54 passengers from that train. Half have been treated and released. We know that 23 people, though, are still inside this hospital tonight. And eight are still in critical condition, fighting for their lives.
SERFATY (voice-over): For the survivors of Amtrak train 188, it was a moment of chaos and horror.
JANNA D'AMBRISI, AMTRAK PASSENGER: I was thrown against the girl next to me, against the window. And people from the other side of the aisle started falling on top of us.
[18:50:01] So somebody's leg hit the side of my head. The rest of her body must have been in the luggage rack.
BETH DAVIDZ, AMTRAK PASSENGER: I mean, I really thought this might be the end. I mean, there was no way to know, like in the darkness. I mean, so you just -- being able to taste dirt was lovely because you knew you were alive, not dead.
SERFATY: Among the dead, 20-yearld Justin Zemser, a midshipman from the U.S. Naval Academy, who was on his way home to New York.
SUSAN ZEMSER, MOTHER OF JUSTIN ZEMSER: He was his high school valedictorian and was just finishing up his second year as midshipman at the United States Naval Academy. He was a loving son, nephew and cousin who was very community minded.
SERFATY: And Jim Gaines, a father of two, who worked for the "Associated Press".
There are also untold amount who are still missing. One of them is Rachel Jacobs, CEO of a tech company, who was on her way home to her family in New York.
EMILY FOOTE, FRIEND OF RACHEL JACOBS: She definitely was on the train. What's happening with that, they don't have her on the list, is because she didn't have a reserved ticket. She has a Ten Pass. And because of the Ten Pass they didn't have her name on the list. A Ten Pass works that you can get on at any time.
SERFATY: Also missing, Robert Gildersleeve, a 45-year-old executive and father of two from Baltimore. He was going to New York on business.
Temple University took in the most patients, treating over 50 with injuries ranging from minor to severe.
DR. HERBERT CUSHING, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: I was surprised there were as few head injuries as we saw, and there were many, many patients that had rib fractures.
SERFATY (on camera): What does that tell you?
CUSHING: Lots and lots of rib fractures. That there was a high energy crash.
SERFATY (voice-over): Some of those treated and released from the hospital eventually made it to New York's Penn Station earlier today on another train, while the search for those still missing continues.
SERFATY: And we are hearing confirmation of another one of the seven killed. A Wells Fargo executive, his name is Abid Gilani. He's vice president of their hospitality Finance Group, and that was confirmed, Wolf, by the Wells Fargo company just a few moments ago -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And our hearts go out to the family and friends of all of those who unfortunately died in this horrific crash.
Sunlen, thank you very much.
The breaking news continues just ahead with a live update from the scene of that Amtrak derailment. We also have new details of the deadly accident.
[18:57:02] BLITZER: We'll have more on the breaking news. That deadly Amtrak disaster in just a moment. But, first, a series of what critics are calling blunders for possible presidential candidate Jeb Bush, including mixed messages on the Iraq war and an inadvertent campaign announcement.
Let's go to our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She's joining us with more.
So, what's going on, Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, pick your GOP candidate -- Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz -- they've all said things they regret, multiple times at this early stage of the 2016 race.
Jeb Bush, to his credit, he talks to the public and the press regularly, so it was bound to happen to him. Unfortunately, his slip was about the war that makes people reluctant for another Bush president.
BASH (voice-over): For Jeb Bush, a third attempt at answering the question knowing what we know today, would he make the same decision as his brother to invade Iraq?
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Of course, you know, given the power of looking back and having that, of course anybody would have made different decisions.
BASH: That was quite different from what he said to FOX earlier this week. BUSH: I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to
remind everybody. So would have almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.
BASH: Today in Nevada, after backlash from Democrats and Republicans alike, he said he misinterpreted the question.
BUSH: Whatever I heard, it was translated, knowing what you knew then, what would you do? I answered it honestly. And I answered it the way I will answer all the time, which is that were mistakes made, but based on the information that we had, it was the right decision.
BASH: What's made matters worse for bush, in his first attempt at cleanup, he dismissed a question about the war as hypothetical.
SEAN HANNITY, "THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW": In 20/20 hindsight, you would make a different decision?
BUSH: Yes, I don't know what that decision would have been, that's a hypothetical. But the simple fact is mistakes were made, as they always are in life.
BASH: Today, it was clear that irked at least one voter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't you think running for president is hypothetical, when you say if I run for president, dot, dot, dot?
BASH: Bush tried the human touch, talking about calling the family of fallen service members when he was Florida governor.
BUSH: Going back in time and talking about hypothetical, what would have happened, what could have happened, I think does a disservice for them.
BASH: Likely presidential opponents, free of Jeb Bush's brotherly baggage when answering the would you have invaded Iraq question, are eager to pile on.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Even at the time, invading Iraq was a mistake.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course not.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: My answer would be no.
BASH: Meanwhile, Jeb Bush suffered a different blunder today, a slip of the tongue, inadvertent declaring his candidacy.
BUSH: I'm running for president in 2016 and the focus is going to be about how we -- if I run -- how do you create high sustained economic growth?
BASH: And you heard him put quickly put the qualifier "if" in that sentence. There is a legal reason why Jeb Bush has to be very careful not
to say he's running for president, and that is once they're a candidate they're subject to strict rules, Wolf, especially when it comes to raising money and communication with super PACs.
BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.