At least three people were killed Monday and dozens were rushed to hospitals when an Amtrak passenger train carrying more than 80 people derailed and partially landed on a busy highway near Tacoma in Washington state during its inaugural run, officials said.
A train car was dangling from the track over a stalled Interstate 5 and another train car was smashed on the highway, photos of the aftermath show. Thirteen cars jumped the track, Washington State Trooper Brooke Bova told reporters. The train cars struck five vehicles and two semi-trucks below as they fell, state officials said. None of the drivers below were killed.
The Associated Press reported earlier that at least six people died, but local officials could only confirm three fatalities as of Monday evening. There were 86 people, including passengers and crew members, on board the Amtrak Cascades, which was traveling from Seattle to Portland, shortly before 8 a.m. when it derailed, Amtrak said.
Here’s what we know about the Amtrak derailment:
Was the train going too fast?
Federal investigators say the train was traveling at 80 mph when it derailed in a 30 mph zone, according to the AP. A track chart prepared by the Washington State Department of Transportation showed that the maximum speed for passengers trains around the curve where the tracks cross Interstate 5 drops from 79 miles per hour to 30.
At a news conference Monday night, Bella Dinh-Zarr, an official with the National Transportation Safety Board, said an event data recorder on the locomotive’s rear provided information about the train’s speed. Dinh-Zarr added “it’s too early to tell” why the train was moving so fast. She said it is still unclear what caused the derailment, according to the AP.
Warning about the new track
At a Dec. 4 meeting of the Lakewood, Wash. City Council, Mayor Don Anderson warned about the route’s potential safety issues, according to video posted online by Seattle radio station KOMO. “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 can be heard saying.
The incident remains under investigation. The AP, citing an anonymous official, said the train may have struck an object on the track before it derailed.
The Amtrak Cascades train was making its inaugural run after undergoing weeks of tests, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.
The Seattle Times said the train was using a new route, meant to shorten the length of trips, as part of a long $181 million project.
All southbound lanes on Interstate 5 are expected to be shut down for the rest of the day, officials said.
How many people died?
The AP, citing an anonymous federal official, had reported that at least six people died, but local officials on Monday evening said three people were killed. Of the 72 people evaluated for injuries, state officials said 10 were in serious condition.
How did President Trump react?
At a news conference and in a pair of tweets Monday, President Donald Trump offered his condolences to the victims of the derailment, but said the country’s infrastructure needs improvement. Trump tweeted that the derailment in Washington “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!” he wrote.