As investigators attempt to determine why Amtrak train 188 between Washington and New York left the tracks earlier this week in Philadelphia killing 7, injuring more than 200 with 20 or more still missing, one disturbing explanation could be terrorism.
In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued several warnings to the railroad industry since 911 that deliberately derailing a speeding train has been on the laundry list of “mass casualty” terrorist targets as far back as 2003.
The FBI began issuing warnings when it revealed that “derailers” had been stolen from train yards following the 911 attacks – equipment that has no use outside of railroad industry that uses them to move trains off tracks for repair and maintenance.
In the wrong hands, derailers could be deployed on tracks carrying hundreds of passengers at high speeds leading to what the nation saw in Philadelphia on Tuesday.
ABC News first published the FBI warning in 2003. The warning read:
“Devices that could be used by terrorists to derail trains are being stolen from rail facilities around the country, the FBI warned today.
Nine derailers, a piece of railroad equipment used to derail train cars for safety purposes in rail yards have been stolen recently, sources said, citing the FBI’s weekly intelligence bulletin. The theft of these items is strange since they are of little use outside of the rail industry, according to the bulletin.
Railroads have been targeted in the past by terrorists, the bulletin said.
The warning specifically mentioned the Oct. 1995 derailment of an Amtrak train in Hyder, Arizona. In that incident, one person was killed and 78 were injured when parts of the track had been sabotaged.
In early February, the FBI investigated the derailment of an CSX cargo train in rural Allendale County in South Carolina saying it was no accident according to the South Carolina Radio Network.
The FBI offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of anyone who caused the train to crash near the city of Martin on January 27. Emergency officials said the train was diverted down the wrong track where it collided with rail cars parked on the siding.
State authorities said the CSX cargo on board included 19,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid – a corrosive liquid that leaked from the derailed train cars after the crash. A train conductor and engineer were injured in the crash. Nearby homes were evacuated.
In what authorities for now believe to be an unrelated incident, a separate SEPTA Philadelphia commuter train was hit by a projectile about 20 minutes before Amtrak train 188 derailed a few miles up the track.
Authorities do not know what the projectile was but it hit the train’s windshield hard enough to crack it
SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams said the Trenton-bound commuter train was stopped and the incident was being investigated when the Amtrak derailment happened about 3½ miles away.