By Mike Hellgren

PHILADELPHIA (WJZ) — The investigation into the deadly Amtrak derailment is zeroing in on speed. It’s believed the train was going more than 100 miles per hour when it flew off the rails.

Mike Hellgren has the latest.

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Officials say 238 people and 5 crew members were on board the train. Seven were killed as a result of the crash.

The lead prosecutor in Philadelphia is looking closely at this case and whether criminal charges are warranted. Excessive speed was a major factor at play, but it’s not the only factor under investigation.

At this hour, investigators remain on the scene of the Amtrak 188 derailment, piecing together the puzzle of what happened.

Among the initial findings: the train was going too fast–106 miles per hour. The speed limit on the curve where it left the tracks is just 50 mph.

“To see it in the daytime is almost indescribable. It is painful, and it is amazing, it is incredible that so many people walked away from that scene,” said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

The D.C. to New York-bound train left Baltimore and then stopped in Philadelphia.

It was at 9:21 p.m. Tuesday when the tragedy unfolded.

Among the dead — 20 year-old Justin Zemser, a Naval Academy midshipman on his way home to see his mom.

Midshipman Justin Zemser, member of Navy Sprint Football team, among those killed in Amtrak 188 derailment

Midshipman Justin Zemser, member of Navy Sprint Football team, among those killed in Amtrak 188 derailment


Also killed in Tuesday’s tragedy, Jim Gaines, an Associated Press video software architect and 55-year-old Abid Gilani, Senior Vice President at Wells Fargo.

Abid Gilani

Abid Gilani

Federal investigators say the engineer–identified as Brandon Bostian– applied the emergency brake, but it was too late.

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Terrified passengers went flying into walls and each other.

“When we finally stopped and I knew that I was no longer being thrown around and I tasted dirt, it never tasted so lovely in my life,” said one passenger.

“My house shook. Almost like an earthquake,” said witness Joseph Godfrey.

University of Maryland law professor Sherrilyn Ifill was also on the train Tuesday night. She recounts the terrifying experience through tweets saying,” Grateful to have made it through last night; glad #Amtrak messed up my business class ticket. Truly surreal experience. #blessed

Ifill is also the President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, INc.

Investigators recovered the data recorder, and with it, video from cameras on board and other crucial information.

WJZ has confirmed the train did not have a safety device that could have slowed or even stopped it in the event of an emergency.

“We feel that had such a system been installed in this section of track, this accident would not have occurred,” said Robert Sumwalt, NTSB.

Leaders in Philadelphia vow to get to the bottom of what happened—something they never want to see again
“I saw people on this street behind us walking off that train,” said Philadelphia Mayor Nutter. “And I don’t know how that happened, but for the grace of God.”

The government mandates the aforementioned safety device be installed on all trains by the end of the year.

A Baltimore man was believed to be on the train. His family has gathered in Philadelphia in hopes of finding any leads.

“My heart aches for the passengers of Amtrak Train 188.  Amtrak service is a way of life for so many of our city residents, as well as visitors from all across the Northeast who commute to, from and through our city every day,” said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake following Tuesday night’s tragedy. “My prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives in this tragedy.  We will support the recovery efforts in every way possible as authorities work to identity the cause of the crash.”

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The wreck is not far from the site of one of the nation’s deadliest train accidents: the 1943 derailment of the Congressional Limited, from Washington to New York, which killed 79 people.

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Amtrak’s busy Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston serves 11.6 million passengers a year.