Early this morning at approximately 7:30 am, there was a cataclysmic derailment of an Amtrak train near Tacoma, Washington. Amtrak 501 was on its maiden trip. I believe there were 77 passengers and 7 crew on board. The train was clipping along at 81 mph. This was the inaugural ride for Amtrak’s new line there. I am hearing conflicting reports. One says the train hit a truck on the tracks, another says it was going too fast. Whatever the cause, it derailed and several train cars fell from the tracks to Interstate 5 below them, crushing cars on the highway. Some of the cars fell on top of each other. There are also whispers of poor planning connected to the accident.
At last count, six were dead and 74 injured and taken to local hospitals. The train was just departing the new Tacoma station and was traveling southbound from Seattle when something very bad happened. This line is part of Amtrak’s Cascades service from Seattle, WA to Portland, OR. The service for the two Amtrak Cascades trains has been canceled. The tragedy caused a massive traffic jam on the highway and people are being directed away from the area. It will be closed at least a day and I’m betting a lot longer than that.
The new route, called the Point Defiance Bypass Project, was billed as an improvement over lines that hugged the scenic Puget Sound, but included tight curves and single-track tunnels. The new route uses an existing rail line that runs along Interstate 5 from south Tacoma through Dupont before reconnecting with the main line.
Photos tweeted by Washington State Patrol Public Information Officer Brooke Bova showed one car detached and smashed on the ground. Another car was dangling from the overpass. Other photos show multiple cars crashed beneath the tracks. Chris Kaines, who is the chair of Pierce Transit’s advisory board, tweeted, “The train has derailed. Emergency crews are on the scene. Massive damage. People are hurt.” He said the train appeared to have hit a truck, adding that the car was “destroyed.”
In recordings of emergency radio conversations, a member of the train crew told a dispatcher briefly what happened. “We were coming around the corner to take the bridge over I-5 there, uh, right north of Nisqually and we went on the ground,” the crew member said. One witness, Kolter Raudebauga, told NBC affiliate KING that the train seemed to have “nosedived,” leaving it “dangling off the ramp there, off the track.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team to investigate the cause of the derailment. They are coming in from DC. The Federal Railroad Administration also tweeted it has investigators on the way to the scene. It will take some time to comb through the wreckage to determine the cause. That area will be cordoned off until they are done.
Individuals with questions about their friends and family on train 501 should call 800-523-9101
— Amtrak (@Amtrak) December 18, 2017
This was supposed to be the first day of schedule changes to include two new round trips between Seattle and Portland, according to the Amtrak website. The Washington Department of Transportation spent $800 million on passenger train improvement. The southbound lanes of Interstate 5, which see about 60,000 vehicles per day, are expected to be closed for “an extended period,” according to the WSDOT. Amtrak train 501 is part of the new route running between Portland and Seattle daily
Lakewood mayor Don Anderson made an ominous and prophetic comment when he said it was only a matter of time until a deadly derailment would occur. He said grade separations to protect people from the trains were needed. “Come back when there is that accident, and try to justify not putting in those safety enhancements, or you can go back now and advocate for the money to do it, because this project was never needed and endangers our citizens,” Anderson said. The train was traveling on newly refurbished tracks that are part of a new route designed to offer speedier service south of Tacoma.
The train has derailed. Emergency crews are on the scene. Massive damage. People are hurt. pic.twitter.com/f62gjUrZN1
— Chris Karnes ? (@TacomaTransit) December 18, 2017
This is a mass casualty event and the numbers will change as we go along. It’s so sad that this happened especially at this time of year. Governor Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency. Multiple agencies including the Red Cross, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, fire departments and Pierce and Thurston counties, were responding. No motorists were killed, only people on the train.
The train hit a truck apparently. I am fine, but the train is destroyed.
— Chris Karnes ? (@TacomaTransit) December 18, 2017
— ♚Ling-Ling♚ (@linglingmz3) December 18, 2017
Heartbroken by the news coming out of WA right now. As my staff works to get more info, my thoughts are w/ everyone affected, including the 1st responders doing their best to keep people safe. –PM
— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) December 18, 2017
All SB lanes of I-5 blocked near Mounts Road in Pierce County due to derailed train car. Avoid area! pic.twitter.com/SBH7dCc6yg
— WSDOT Tacoma Traffic (@wsdot_tacoma) December 18, 2017
— John Hopperstad (@JohnHopperstad) December 18, 2017
— Bettina Hansen (@bettinahansen) December 18, 2017
"Some of the #Amtrak cars were struck by the train and crushed," Pierce Co. detective says, praising quick work of first responders. "It's actually a miracle that…at this point there are no fatals from anybody that was inside those vehicles." pic.twitter.com/VvVLT4ZXbj
— ABC Columbia (@abc_columbia) December 18, 2017
We can see workers looking at the tracks behind the derailed Amtrak, just before it went into the left turn that leads to I-5 overpass. pic.twitter.com/oNSnkUU0q2
— Joseph O'Sullivan (@OlympiaJoe) December 18, 2017
Images from the @Amtrak derailment scene showed one train car dangling from an overpass as first responders worked to rescue the victims, while other cars lay overturned on the ground. It was the first day of the train's new route. https://t.co/0prg1DUAPt pic.twitter.com/94KoXPgGU9
— NBC DFW (@NBCDFW) December 18, 2017
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) December 18, 2017
The NTSB considers the Amtrak derailment to be a "major incident" and is getting ready to dispatch a 20-member go-team departing from Washington, D.C., this evening for Washington state, according to an NTSB official https://t.co/fR5u9ClMrf pic.twitter.com/OyHiMmEmOX
— CNN (@CNN) December 18, 2017
Our statement on today's Amtrak Cascades derailment. pic.twitter.com/BxORZ9cMqV
— Washington State DOT (@wsdot) December 18, 2017
Our deepest sympathies and most heartfelt prayers are with the victims of the train derailment in Washington State. We are closely monitoring the situation and coordinating with local authorities… pic.twitter.com/Gyf5BdVm4G
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2017
CRASH UPDATE: New aerial footage shows the mangled wreckage after an Amtrak train derailed on its first passenger trip on a new route in Washington State, sending several cars toppling off a highway overpass; authorities say multiple people were killed. pic.twitter.com/Jp5paLvqCA
— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) December 18, 2017
— Kyle Iboshi (@KyleIboshi) December 18, 2017
#UPDATE: At least six people killed after Amtrak train carrying 83 people on the first day of a new route derails onto interstate highway south of Seattle, U.S. official says. https://t.co/xVuKAE8xOZ pic.twitter.com/SqFMUhhOql
— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) December 18, 2017
Latest information about the Amtrak train derailment in Washington: https://t.co/Sps2qU7ERc
– At least 6 killed; death count expected to rise, according to U.S. official
– Train may have struck something on the track
– Positive train control technology was not implemented pic.twitter.com/xYiQjlC87m
— Brendan Weber (@BrendanNWeber) December 18, 2017
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