The Wreck of Train 188

by longformphilly


The Staff of The Philadelphia Inquirer | May 2015

The train pulled out of 30th Street Station at 9:10 p.m. Tuesday, one minute late.

Pretty good, really. Less than 90 minutes to New York. On board, the new passengers settled in among the Washington crowd who two hours earlier had taken the best seats.

Rachel Jacobs, 39, phoned her husband, telling him she’d made the train. The Swarthmore grad was recently hired as CEO at an online learning start-up in University City.

David Hayes, 52, and a colleague headed straight for the cafe car. He’d just finished directing rehearsals at the Friends Center for the final concert of the Philadelphia Singers.

The Amtrak Northeast Regional train abounded with people like that – a high-IQ express of the rolling elite, educated, and accomplished.

Seat after seat held one success story after another: an olive oil entrepreneur, a college dean, a banker, a Hungarian artist, two men who’d just come from a White House-sponsored conference on Asian Heritage Month.

Two hundred thirty-eight passengers in all, plus five crew. Trenton would be next, around 9:36.

A few minutes into the run, Train 188 was rolling, with North Philly a blur outside the windows in the darkness.

In the fourth car, the club car, an assistant conductor said she heard a radio transmission. Her engineer, Brandon Bostian, was telling a SEPTA engineer a window in the Amtrak train had been “struck by something.”

Duy Nguyen, 39, an associate professor in Temple University’s School of Social Work, was riding in the seventh and last car. He didn’t notice the steady acceleration as he chatted on the phone with his wife, Amy Dwyer. They spoke about their two kids and renovations to their Teaneck, N.J., house.

Ninety miles per hour, 100 m.p.h. The couple kept talking as the train sped into a sharply curved length of track.

Then Dwyer could no longer hear her husband.

“Duy? Duy? Hello?” she said. But all she heard was a loud noise.

It was 9:21 p.m.

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