DUPONT, Wash. — A passenger train on a newly opened Amtrak route jumped the tracks on an overpass south of Tacoma on Monday, slamming rail cars into a busy highway, killing at least three individuals and injuring about one hundred other people, officials stated.
The derailment of Amtrak Train No. 501, making the inaugural run of a new service from Seattle to Portland, dropped a 132-ton locomotive in the southbound lanes of the Northwest’s busiest travel corridor, Interstate five. Two passenger coaches also fell partly in the traffic lanes, and two other coaches have been left dangling off the bridge, a single of them wedged against a tractor-trailer. On the highway beneath lay five crumpled cars and two semi-trucks, and enormous chunks of concrete that had been ripped away from the damaged overpass.
All 12 of the train’s coaches and a single of its two engines derailed. The National Transportation Security Board sent a team to investigate everything from the speed of the train to whether a technologies identified as positive train handle could have slowed it.
“It felt like the finish of the planet, and I was standing amid the wreckage,” mentioned Emma Shafer, 20, a modern day-dance student who was napping aboard the train with her shoes off when it derailed. She found herself in a coach dangling at a steep angle toward the highway — the man behind her yelling, his legs pinned, even though a parent trapped with a baby in a restroom banged on the door for support acquiring out.
The crash, at 7:33 a.m. about midway between Tacoma and Olympia, killed at least three individuals, nearby police and fire officials said late Monday afternoon. Earlier, a federal official briefed on the crash said that six men and women had been killed. Some of these injured had been in vehicles on the highway and not on the train.
But investigators are still going through the wreckage and could not say for particular how numerous men and women had died. “It appears that all of the fatalities are contained in the rail vehicles that went into the woods,” mentioned Detective Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, adding that rescue workers had been making use of chain saws to attempt to reach victims in those automobiles.
CHI Franciscan Health, a regional hospital network, stated the injured have been transported to hospitals, such as four who have been classified “level red,” reflecting the most extreme injuries.
The train carried 77 passengers and seven crew members, stated Gay Banks Olson, assistant superintendent of Northwest operations for Amtrak.
President Trump wrote on Twitter that the crash on Amtrak’s Cascades service showed the require for enhanced infrastructure spending.
In fact, the tracks where the accident occurred have been brand new and the result of a current infrastructure investment program.
Backed by the state of Washington, Sound Transit, the regional transit agency, employed $180 million from the 2009 federal stimulus package to purchase an old 14.five-mile stretch of track and upgrade it for faster passenger service. The project, recognized as the Point Defiance Bypass, was devised to allow Cascades trains to quit employing a far more roundabout route that they shared with freight trains, generating for more rapidly, far more dependable travel.
The state also spent $58 million from the stimulus bill on eight new locomotives, specifically for that service. The Cascades service embodies the complicated, overlapping responsibilities on numerous of the nation’s rail lines. Officials stated the service is owned by the states of Washington and Oregon, and operated by Amtrak, whereas the Point Defiance Bypass track is owned by Sound Transit, a regional transit agency, and dispatched by BNSF, the freight company that used to personal the line.
“There have been a lot of trial runs” on the line, stated Ms. Olson of Amtrak. She said it was far as well soon to go over a trigger of the disaster.
The train derailed where the track curved onto the bridge across Interstate 5. The state transportation department had boasted that the new route would have a best speed of 79 miles per hour, although it was not clear if a slower limit was in spot exactly where the train crashed. Shortly before the accident, a passenger, Chris Karnes, chairman of the advisory board to Pierce County’s transit agency, took to Twitter to marvel at how quickly the train was moving, noting, “We are passing up targeted traffic on I-5.”
Federal law needs railroads, by the finish of 2018, to have optimistic train handle, which automatically slows trains if they are exceeding speed limits or approaching hazardous situations. In its most current progress report to the railroad administration, Amtrak stated it had installed constructive train control on all 603 miles of track on the Northeast Corridor, from Washington to Boston.
The Washington State Department of Transportation has stated that the complete Cascades route will have the method by mid-2018, but it was not clear no matter whether it was in operation on Monday on any element of the line.
Good train handle could have prevented some of the nation’s worst rail disasters, like the 2008 collision of a commuter train and a freight train in Los Angeles that killed 25 people, or the 2015 derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia that went into a curve at more than twice the permitted speed, an accident that killed eight folks.
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, who declared a state of emergency, cautioned against jumping to the conclusion that excessive speed or shoddy function upgrading the line was to blame for Monday’s crash.
“Suspend judgment about what occurred in this incident,” he stated, soon after going to victims who were taken to the nearby DuPont City Hall. “No one particular knows what happened in this incident.”
Interstate 5, the primary route linking the cities along Puget Sound, was closed to southbound visitors, and autos heading north moved gradually previous the wreckage. Officials mentioned they did not know how lengthy it would take to remove the remains of the train, make sure the bridge was secure to pass beneath, and reopen the southbound lanes.
Paul Woodbury, 29, who was in the sixth vehicle of the train when it derailed, described a chaotic scene, with severely injured folks on the ground and screams piercing the air as he climbed out of the wreckage. As soon as outside, in the cool morning mist, “people stood about, shellshocked,” he mentioned, till emergency workers came to get them.
Other survivors told nearby news media about choosing by way of broken glass and twisted metal, struggling to pry out windows to escape, and employing the flashlight function on their cellphones to see in the ruined, darkened coaches. Witnesses told of drivers leaving their autos on the highway to support pull individuals from the wreckage.
Later, some of the rail automobiles were too precarious for rescuers to enter in search of victims until later in the day, said Brooke Bova, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Patrol.
The Cascades line is popular, running via spectacular scenery — the sound, forests, farms and, most striking of all, the Cascades range, such as Mount Rainier. In the past, the trip in between Portland and Seattle has taken about four hours.