Media Bypasses Overpass Details in Amtrak Story

“Don’t include so many details!” editors have cried to me over the years.

The Media has left out a very important detail in the story about the derailed Amtrak train in which eight people were killed on May 12, 2015 – two details – which have been buried:  the exact location of the track and whether the train was north- or south.

According to the map, the train was northbound for New York City from Port Richmond Station in North Philadelphia.  North Philadelphia.  Scene of countless cop killings.

What none of the photographs show is the I-95 overpass the train had just come out from under.  All media were focused on the excessive speed of the train, Amtrak’s lack of automatic speed controls in that particular area near that curve.  What they didn’t focus on, until a few days ago was that fact that the train had a large hole in the front windshield.  The discussion focused on Amtrak’s safety record and the Congressional budget battle over Amtrak.

Even now, the I-95 overpass is only a minor detail.  The Media has twisted itself into pretzels trying to avoid that hole in the window (the press at the time of the JFK assassination also ignored the obvious overpass that lay just up ahead of JFK’s limousine).  We know from an assistant conductor aboard the train that the engineer had reported a projectile being thrown at the window.

What’s more, other train engineers reported similar incidents around that same time, in that same area.  Near that same overpass.  The question is:  did the engineer of the derailed train see vandals standing on the I-95 overpass ready to hurl rocks or shoot bullets at the train, and did he speed up the train in an attempt to avoid them?  (It seems to me that you don’t speed a train up to 106 m.p.h. when you know a dangerous curve is up ahead unless you see someone aiming a gun at you.)

Legally, he would still be liable for the deaths.  But is that what happened?  Because if this is true, the culprits who were menacing the trains need to be brought to justice.

My mother is a retired bus driver.  For years, she did the Atlantic City run, driving passengers from northern New Jersey to A.C. and back up and down the Garden State Parkway.  The GSP is crossed many times by low-lying overpasses.

One night, as she was driving yet another group of passengers home, her bus and others also traveling in the same direction were struck by rocks thrown from an overpass.  The CB radio, she said, was abuzz with reports of rock strikes, and she watched brake lights go on as the drivers pulled over to the side.

There was a loud bang on my mother’s bus and when she looked up, she saw a large hole in the passenger side of the windshield. She asked the passengers if they were all right.  They replied that someone had been hit.  Looking over her shoulder, she saw the passenger in the aisle passenger seat holding his hands over his face.

“My eye!  My eye!” he groaned.

Mom calmly pulled her bus to the side of the road, just ahead of the other buses.  She gave the passenger’s wife some paper towels she had handy to put over his eye.  The projectile had struck the first aisle passenger and continued hurtling on past passengers into the back of the bus.  One passenger told her it nearly hit him.  The rock tore a hole through the side of a headrest.

The police had already been summoned and soon an ambulance carried away the blinded passenger.  Mom found the piece of black asphalt – and the passenger’s eye while cleaning up the bus.  Then she located a piece of cardboard with which to cover up her windshield, and once the police were through questioning her and the other passengers, she resumed the trip home.

The local police said they had a pretty good idea of who the culprits and they were soon given up by other teenagers.  The passengers of all the buses struck that night were lucky that none of the drivers were hit.  Otherwise, bodies would have been all over the Parkway.

Does the Media still think it’s just “kids being kids” or “boys being boys”?  The little dears.  Perhaps they should recall the incidents perhaps a decade or so back when “teenagers” hurled bowling ball-size rocks from the overpasses of the Cross Bronx Expressway in New York City.  At least one driver was killed instantly when the rock crashed through the roof of her car.

Is the Media looking for “A Senseless Tragedy” headline for the Amtrak derailment story?  Another Amtrak derailment, in New York’s Westchester County, was blamed on sleep deficit on the part of the engineer.

Sorry.  But with that hole in the windshield, and other trains reporting similar incidents at the same time in North Philadelphia, it’s just not that simple.  You can blame the Amtrak engineer for excessive speed.  You can blame Amtrak for not installing speed controls (any bets as to how long it will be before North Philadelphia thugs vandalize this piece of tantalizing technology?).  You can blame Amtrak for fiscal malfeasance.

But unless and until the menace posed by thugs on the I-95 overpass nearby is addressed, that section of track in the Port Richmond area of North Philadelphia will still be dangerous.  That’s the real safety concern authorities need to address.

Or is the Media still more worried about social justice than real justice?

Published in: on May 18, 2015 at 4:59 pm  Leave a Comment