At Least 3 People Killed in Amtrak Train Derailment South of Seattle

December 19, 2017 06:02 AM

An Amtrak train that derailed south of Seattle and killed at least three people was making its first run as part of a higher speed service that local authorities had warned could be dangerous.

At least three people were killed, authorities said, and the death toll was expected to rise. 

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Seventy-eight passengers and five crew members were aboard when the train moving at more than 80 mph derailed about 40 miles. 

An official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press that preliminary signs indicate that Train 501 may have struck something before going off the track. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke to on the condition of anonymity.

The train derailed about 40 miles south of Seattle at about 7:40 a.m., spilling at least one train car on to busy Interstate 5.

Transitdocs.com, a website that maps Amtrak train locations and speeds using data from the railroad's train tracker app, says Train 501 was going 81.1 mph moments before the derailment Monday. The state Department of Transportation posted information about the $180.7 million project online that says the maximum speed along that stretch of track is 79 mph.

AERIAL VIDEO: Fatal Train Derailment South of Seattle

The new route was designed to speed up service by removing passenger trains from a route along Puget Sound that's bogged down by curves, single-track tunnels and freight traffic. The mayor of Lakewood, Washington, a city along the route, predicted a deadly crash. But Don Anderson thought it'd involve a fast-moving train hitting a car or pedestrian at a crossing.

Ed Troyer, a spokesman with the Pierce County Sheriff's office, said multiple people were killed aboard the train that was heading south, but no numbers were immediately available.

Amtrak reported there were approximately 78 passengers and five crew members on board.

The sheriff's office called it a multiple agency response, and that it was an event for which they have trained.

A triage center was set up and some injured were being treated on the scene. Others were transported to local hospitals. Some people were able to walk off the train, while others were extricated. It was unclear if people were still on the train.

All southbound lanes of Interstate 5 were closed south of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and motorists were being warned to avoid the area.

The sheriff's office said I-5 southbound will be shut down for a while, since the bridge, road, cars and train cars were damaged.

Troyer said there were cars "upside down and in the woods," which was not visible from the interstate overpass where media was set up.

Chris Karnes was on the train, three or four cars back from the front.

"I'm not sure what got hit. I'm not sure what happened," Karnes said.

He was unhurt but near the medical tents set up in a median area between north- and sound-bound I-5, just south of DuPont.

"The only car that is on the tracks is the rear locomotive. There are several cars that are hanging over the overpass," Karnes said.

In a statement Amtrak said the train was offering service from Seattle to Portland.

"Emergency services are on the scene and Amtrak management is responding. Some injuries are reported," Amtrak said.

Amtrak officials also said those with questions about their family and friends on Train 501 should call 800-523-9101.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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This story has been updated to reflect that authorities said Monday night that three people died. A U.S. official said earlier that six people were killed.

KSTP

(Copyright 2018 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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