When an Amtrak train heading to Manhattan derailed and overturned in Philadelphia, passengers on one side were dumped onto fellow riders across the aisle and survivors worked their way to exits through the smoke-filled interior.
Passenger Janna D'Ambrisi, 26, of Lloyd Harbor, recalled that chaotic scene Wednesday in an interview with News 12 Long Island.
The Northeast Regional train 188, carrying 238 passengers and five crew members, was heading to Manhattan when it derailed shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday, officials said. Seven people died and dozens more were injured.
"It felt like the train was going too fast around the curve . . . And then there was a jolt, and you could definitely feel that we derailed," D'Ambrisi said.
"I was thrown into the girl next to me, who was sitting in the window seat. . . . The train started to tilt that way. I wasn't sure how far we were going to tip over. But people on the other side of the aisle started to fall into us and above us, actually," she said.
"Somebody's leg hit the side of my head, so I assume the rest of her body was above me in the luggage rack. I just kind of held onto her leg and covered my head and was just kind of praying that the train would stop at some point," she said.
"It felt like . . . we had a lot of momentum for awhile. We finally stopped. I was like dizzy getting up, but I wasn't injured. I was fine.
"There were some people on the floor, but you couldn't tell if they were really hurt," D'Ambrisi said. "I mean, everyone's stuff was thrown everywhere."
She said seats were dislodged and spilled into the aisle. It was really smoky, she said, and passengers were coughing.
"I heard a banging noise coming from the bathroom on the other side of the car," D'Ambrisi said. "I was able to climb over people's luggage and get to the bathroom. I could hear a man inside saying he was stuck."
She said she tried to open the door but couldn't.
"So I looked into the last car behind me, and I could see that somebody was trying to bang open the door to the outside with like a giant hammer," D'Ambrisi said.
"So I was able to grab him and tell him somebody was stuck in the bathroom and he was able to somehow bang the door open," she said.
Then, she said, it "occurred to me I should get out of this train."
D'Ambrisi said a man she believed to be a passenger identified himself as a police officer and he calmed everybody down.
"Eventually we exited out of the back of the train. There were people helping us off," D'Ambrisi said, adding she believes they were passengers and neighborhood residents because first responders had yet to arrive.
"The last car was even more tilted than my car. It was pretty difficult to walk out the back. You kept falling. Also you were kind of dizzy and disoriented," she said.
They were directed off the tracks, to a dirt area, where she saw people lying down, some "bleeding from the head."
"Luckily, I was OK, with the exception of just getting banged up a little bit," D'Ambrisi said.
Arriving first responders tended to those with head injuries first, she said. She said she and others were escorted across the tracks, through a fence that accessed a street, where neighborhood residents handed out water and offered use of their cellphones.
"Some people had been in cars that the windows had broken and they had ended up in dirt. [The residents] were offering to let those people go inside their homes and shower," she said.
The injured were taken to a hospital while she was among those taken to a nearby school and interviewed by detectives.
D'Ambrisi said she arrived back home in the middle of the night after accepting an offer to ride with two others via the Uber car service.