Stories of survival emerge from Amtrak derailment

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Anthony Johnson reports from Newark with the stories of two survivors from the Amtrak accident in Philadelphia. (WABC)

As the emotional trauma truly starts to sink in for the people who survived the derailment of Amtrak train 188 in Philadelphia, stories are survival and helping others continue to emerge.

Paul Passamano and his wife Adriana had spent the day in DC with their son and his family before heading home to New Jersey. They were five cars back when the train flew off the rails.

"A nightmare, it was a real nightmare," he said. "Like I was a beach ball. I was bouncing around from chair to chair to chair until finally when the train stopped, I went straight down."

"I blinked and I was on the floor," Adriana sad. "And I had no idea, just screaming."

Hundreds of victims helped one another climb to safety. But others needed more help. In a picture tweeted around the world, Lenard Knobbs's son spotted his dad, now in a Philadelphia hospital bed.

"Looked at the news and said 'there's daddy,'" he said. "He's missing his glasses, his hat and his smile."

For the Passamanos, it's the sudden jolt that'll stay with them.

"It was like taking your car going 90 miles an hour and going right into a brick wall," Paul said. "That's the impact it was...I feel bad for the people who died, they didn't have to die."

And as banged up as they are, they're simply grateful they're alive.

"Just think, we had a guardian angel that sat us where we were and protected us," Adriana said.

Several Lyndhurst, New Jersey, police officers were in Washington DC for a unity tour over the weekend, and one of them was on the way back with his fiance at the time of the crash.

Officer Michael Keane was in the last car, which rolled over and came back upright. He and his fiance are OK and helped the conductor and several people out.

The train was barely into its nearly 90-minute ride when passengers say it made a fast and wild turn.

"And immediately, you could tell the train derailed," passenger Janna D'Ambrise said.

"Our train was actually on its side, so it pushed me onto the side of the train," rider Joan Ealfman said. "I hit my chest."

The impact violently threw passengers into the walls and windows inside the train and into each other.

"It kind of still feels like a dream," passenger Max Elfman said. "How could this happen? You always read about things, see it on the news, a plane crashes, train derails, but you never think it's going to happen to you."

Some passengers bloody and with broken bones somehow climbed out of the twisted wreckage not knowing which was up. But they knew they had to get out.

"A lot of the passengers were very brave," rider Paul Cheung said. "They came out very collected while in shock, everything really orderly. It wasn't massive chaos."

The worst of the wounded were rushed to Temple University Hospital, which has one of Philadelphia's best trauma centers.

"Many folks came in on their own," Dr. Herbert Cushing said. "And we called in extra surgeons and nurses to make sure we had a full team here."

More than 200 passengers were treated at five different hospitals across the city, with the vast majority suffering minor cuts and scratches.
(Some information from the Associated Press)
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amtrak train crashamtraktrain derailmentsearch and rescuephiladelphiatrain crash
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