The first few seconds of Yameen Allworld’s cellphone video play out in near-total darkness.
“Come on, ma’am,” a man’s voice says, as a woman can be heard crying out in pain, or maybe just fear. “I got you, OK?” says another man. “Keep crawling, OK?” he repeats with more urgency.
Finally, as though someone flicked a switch, the camera finds light and reveals a man attempting to squeeze through a narrow opening on the mangled Amtrak Regional 188, which derailed and toppled over Tuesday night while en route to New York. “Where am I crawling to?” the man asks, as someone rushes toward him. His white shirt appears to be stained with blood.
It’s one of several terrifying scenes caught on film in the aftermath of Tuesday’s deadly Amtrak crash that captured the confusion, panic, and heroism displayed by the 238 passengers and five crew members on board.
Allworld, a Philadelphia music producer, later posted the video to Instagram with the simple caption: “My train crashed.” The next video he uploaded shows an army of emergency responders on site, as well as the injuries he sustained – two gashes on his shins, and a minor one on his neck. All in all, he appeared to be OK.
Others were not so lucky. Officials have confirmed at least seven fatalities resulting from Tuesday’s Amtrak crash. Additionally, more than 200 people were injured.
The Amtrak train that jumped the tracks late Tuesday evening near Philadelphia was likely traveling at 106 miles per hour when it approached a bend in the rail where the limit is 50, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) confirmed on Wednesday. The emergency break appears to have been applied just seconds before the derailment.
As information continues to trickle out from the train’s “black box,” survivors are also helping to fill in the gaps with their own accounts of what happened.
“People wanted to get out of the train, and they were trying to figure out the best way to do that,” said NBC News producer Janelle Richards, who recorded several passengers prying open a back exit of their train car to get out. “Passengers had assembled at the door and they were trying to press that button so that the door would slide open. It didn’t slide all the way, but it slid open just enough so that people could start filing out the train. And when they got out the car, it wasn’t as if the fear completely dissipated. The next question was, ‘What could happen?’”
Richards said she was not injured in the collision, but that she “vividly remembered flying up a little bit in [her] seat.” The impact threw her forward and back several times, “and then it was over,” she said. “It was absolutely terrifying, but it was also shocking.”
For Patrick Murphy, a former Pennsylvania congressman and Iraq War veteran who was in the train’s cafe car when it crashed, the shock immediately gave way to his military training.
“First I checked to make sure I still had my arms and legs – it was pretty violent,” said Murphy on msnbc Wednesday. “I was OK. The guy next to me was unconscious. So I got him up, and kind of patted his face saying, ‘Get up, brother. Get up.’”
After the other passenger came to, Murphy punched out a side exit and started helping people out. “I know I’m a very lucky man,” he said.
Nineteen-year-old Max Helfman, who was traveling with his mother, Joan Helfman, also worked to get fellow passengers to safety.
“He got me out of the train, the train was filled with smoke, but he said, ‘Mom, I have to go back and get everyone else out,” Joan Helfman told CBS News.
“I was in a position where I could help them, so I don’t know, instinctively, that’s what I did,” Max Helfman said.
The crash undoubtedly produced many more tales of selflessness and bravery, some perhaps never to be told, along that busy stretch of railway near the city of brotherly love – a city, as President Barack Obama said in a statement, “of neighborhoods and neighbors.”
“[T]hat spirit of loving-kindness was reaffirmed last night,” the president said Wednesday, “as hundreds of first responders and passengers lent a hand to their fellow human beings in need.”