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'I felt myself fly up': Passenger describes derailment of Amtrak train

The Amtrak train that derailed outside of Philadelphia "happened literally in an instant," said an NBC producer who was a passenger in the deadly accident.
/ Source: TODAY

The Amtrak train that derailed outside of Philadelphia "happened literally in an instant,” said an NBC producer who was a passenger in the deadly accident.

“All of a sudden I felt myself fly up in the train, sit back down, move forward move back, move forward move back and there was just a loud, loud crash," Janelle Richards told TODAY's Matt Lauer.

Richards said she has taken the route along the Northeast Corridor numerous times, but the train didn’t appear to be going faster than usual.

"As quickly as it happened, it stopped just as fast," she said. "I remember just sitting there for a second, thinking, 'I cannot believe that's just happened, this train just crashed.' Once smoke starting filling the car, I thought 'I gotta get out of here.'"

Physically, Richards was not hurt, but a woman next to her in the aisle “had blood streaming down her face.” People immediately rushed to the door. “They got it open just enough so that we were able to squeeze through, then passengers were helping each other off,” she said.

Outside, upon first look at the car, the sight was horrifying. “To me, then, it looked like it was split in two almost. And then I looked up and that’s when I saw these two huge electrical poles that were leaning inwards,” she said.

Another passenger, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, was riding in one of the café cars when it began to shake and vibrate.

“All of a sudden it tipped to the left, and then violently to the right when it came to its side,” he said on TODAY. “Unfortunately, I was on the left-hand side of the train, so everyone on that side just flew over. I frankly landed on my head.”

Murphy, an Iraq War veteran whose district included the Philadelphia region, said instinct took over.

“The first thing I did when I realized that I survived I, frankly, just checked my body parts — my legs and arms — that they were there,” he said. He then checked on those around him. Many passengers were “bleeding out of their extremities,” he recalled.

“It was a lot of blood all over,” he said. “The guy next to me was unconscious so I kind of grabbed him and sat him up and slapped his face a little bit.”

After making sure the people in his car were attended to, Murphy said he headed to the café car next to him where he heard screaming.

“One guy couldn’t move at all, and the other guy was bleeding from everywhere,” he said.

Murphy gave ample credit to Amtrak employees helping passengers as well as the professional rescuers who appeared quickly on the scene.

“The first responders, the cops and firefighters, really did an amazing job," he said.

Follow writer Eun Kyung Kim on Twitter.