On First Run Of New Amtrak Route, 6 Die In Wreck
An Amtrak train making its first run on a new route derailed near Tacoma Monday morning, spilling train cars onto a busy interstate. A spokesman for the Pierce County sheriff’s office initially reported six fatalities, all of them train passengers, per the Seattle Times. Officials later put the number of confirmed dead at three. Scores more were injured, including motorists. KOMO reports that nearly 80 people were taken to local hospitals, and some are in critical condition. The train derailed just before 8am local time Monday about 40 miles south of Seattle, closing all southbound lanes of Interstate 5, per the AP. The Washington Post reports 13 cars left the track. The cause remains under investigation. More on the accident:
- The route: Train 501 derailed on its inaugural run on a new route, having left Seattle for Portland at 6am; the trip was to take about 3.5 hours. The train was making use of a new bypass, and a local mayor had warned earlier this month about potential accidents, as recounted in this story at KOMO, though the AP notes Don Anderson suggested the most vulnerable points involved crossings where a train could strike a car or passenger. The bypass was intended to help trains avoid slow curves and single-track tunnels along the previous route.
- The scene: The Post cites officials who said some of the derailed cars ended up in the woods, and chainsaws were needed to get to passengers. More from the Post’s description: “At least one car from the train somehow ended up under the bridge … Another train car dangled from the bridge, piercing the roof of the train car beneath the bridge.”
- Speed: National Transportation Safety Board member Bella Dinn-Zarr said it’s not yet known if speed was a contributing factor. The AP reports Transitdocs.com, a website that tracks Amtrak train locations and speeds, recorded Train 501 traveling 81.1mph just before the derailment. Per the state Department of Transportation, the maximum speed along that stretch of track is 79mph.
- The project: The Seattle Times reports the $181 million project began in 2010 and included the construction of a new Tacoma Amtrak station. The new route would shave 10 minutes from the previous trip length. Per the AP, the Washington State Department of Transportation tested the track in January and February.
- Speculation: An unnamed official tells the AP early indications suggest the train make have hit something on the track before derailing.
- Witness account: Amtrak says 78 passengers and five crew members were aboard the train. “There are people who seem to have concussions,” one passenger tells the Seattle newspaper of a medical tent at the scene. “There’s a lot of blood on their faces.”
- Trump’s reaction: The president initially tweeted that, “The train accident that just occurred in DuPont, WA shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly. Seven trillion dollars spent in the Middle East while our roads, bridges, tunnels, railways (and more) crumble! Not for long!” In a subsequent tweet, he offered his thoughts and prayers to the victims.