Geralyn Ritter, Amtrak crash survivor: My life is so radically different

Chad Pradelli Image
Friday, May 13, 2016
VIDEO: Amtrak survivor speaks
Geralyn Ritter doesn't remember the mangled metal of Amtrak 188, the blood, the debris, or the horror on the faces of passengers.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Geralyn Ritter doesn't remember the mangled metal of Amtrak 188, the blood, the debris, or the horror on the faces of passengers.

"I remember screaming and the next thing I knew I woke up in the hospital several days later," Geralyn said.

But each breath she now takes is a reminder of the last year's derailment.

"My life is so radically different. I hurt all the time," Geralyn said.

The crash threw her internal organs into her chest. Her diaphragm was ruptured, ribs were crushed, and pelvis was broken in half.

Her body has been put back together with pins, rods, and screws.

"You know, very gradually you start realizing this is not just a matter of some bones knitting back together," Geralyn said.

"Watching your wife go through something like this is harder than anything I've done," her husband Jonathan Ritter told Action News.

Jonathan was watching TV when the train derailed.

"So I pretty quickly realized Geralyn could be on that train," Jonathan said.

Repeated calls to her iPhone went unanswered.

So Jonathan checked his Find My iPhone app. It showed his wife's phone about 25 feet off the tracks near Wheatsheaf Lane where television reports said the accident was located.

"For me, it was just this unreal experience," Jonathan said.

He immediately got friends to watch his sons and made the one hour drive to Philadelphia.

He checked the crash site, hospitals, and then a family assist center.


"I sat down there for five minutes and just started crying and there was this guy, a Red Cross volunteer, came over and just sat next to me," Jonathan said.

Finally, nine hours after the derailment with the help of a nurse at Jefferson University Hospital, he learned of a Jane Doe at Penn Presbyterian Hospital. He went there, confirmed it was his wife, and immediately texted his oldest son who'd been worried sick all night.

"He told me later that he fell down on his knees and he said 'Thank God,'" Jonathan said.

"I think of those other families that didn't get what passed for good news at that point - my husband texting my son 'found mom, she's alive,'" Geralyn said.

Geralyn has endured nearly a dozen surgeries and hundreds of hours of rehabilitation.

She is a lawyer for Merck, but still hasn't returned to work.

The engineer of Amtrak 188, Brandon Bostian, hasn't been charged and may never be charged.

Video from Chopper 6 shows the aftermath of the crash of Amtrak 188.

"There has to be accountability and there has to be responsibility and we've seen neither so far," attorney Tom Kline said.

A civil lawsuit is pending. Geralyn and her husband say that will play out. They haven't thought about Bostian as they're too focused on Geralyn's recovery.

"Nobody can tell me that I'm going to be OK or that I'm going to be anywhere close to feeling how I used to. And that's hard to deal with," Geralyn said.

The Ritters attended Thursday's memorial service at City Hall hoping to meet some of the emergency responders who helped her that night. Though they didn't meet them this time, paramedics at the memorial said they would work to make it happen.