An apprentice engineer was at the controls of an Amtrak passenger train that derailed and slammed into a packed commuter train inside Boston's Back Bay station, injuring more than 260 people.
One doctor at the scene of Wednesday's train crash said it was "a miracle" no one was killed as the collision twisted cars into unrecognizable wreckage and touched off a fire fueled by spilled diesel oil during the morning rush hour.Some 264 people were taken to seven Boston hospitals for treatment, transit officials said.
Most of the injuries were minor, but 10 people were listed in serious condition, including the apprentice who was at the controls of the Amtrak Night Owl when it struck the rear of the Massachusetts Bay Transportaton Authority train, officials said.
The crash occurred at 8:23 a.m. just after the MBTA train carrying about 900 commuters stopped in the Back Bay station to discharge its passengers.
The Night Owl, originating in Washington, was arriving about the same time on an adjacent track with about 190 passengers and was rounding a curve when its locomotive derailed outside the station, officials said. The train traveled about 1,200 feet along the trackbed before smashing into the locomotive at the rear of the MBTA train, sending screaming passengers and luggage flying about on both trains, officials said.
Richard Abramson, 41, of Trumbull, Conn., the student Amtrak engineer, was reported under intensive care with a fractured vertebra and broken collar bone at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Boston. The train's regular engineer, Willis Copeland, 53, of Bethany, Conn., who was with Abramson in the cab of the locmotive, underwent surgery for multiple injuries at Boston City Hospital where he was listed in critical condition.
National Transportation Safey Board investigators looking into the cause of the crash were analyzing tapes to determine whether the Amtrak train was traveling in excess of the 30 mph limit in the area, officials said.
"We're still checking into everything from speed to track to crew," MBTA spokesman Howard Robertson said. "Anything that could have contributed to the crash."
An Amtrak spokesman said Abramson had been an apprentice since 1987 and was "fully qualified" to be running the train.