“Derailment” is not an appropriate term for this accident as an Amtrack passenger train hurtled from the rails near 70 MPH on the first-ever run (at speed) along this line. At least six people have been killed. There were 78 people on board for the inaugural run.
DUPONT, Wash. (AP) — An Amtrak train making the first-ever run along a faster new route hurtled off an overpass Monday near Tacoma and spilled some of its cars onto the highway below, killing at least six people, authorities said.
Seventy-eight passengers and five crew members were aboard when the train moving at more than 80 mph derailed about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Seattle before 8 a.m., Amtrak said.
There was no immediate word on why the train left the tracks.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said several vehicles on Interstate 5 were struck by falling train cars and multiple motorists were injured. No fatalities of motorists were reported. (read more)
The train was making the inaugural run on the new route as part of a $180.7 million project 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.
It left Seattle around 6 a.m., according to an Amtrak schedule, and was due in Portland about 3 1/2 hours later.
The new route includes a bypass built on an existing inland rail line that runs along Interstate 5 from Tacoma to DuPont, near where Train 501 derailed. Track testing was completed in January and February in advance of Monday’s launch, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.
The mayor of Lakewood, Washington, a city along the new route, predicted a deadly crash — but one involving a fast-moving train hitting a car or pedestrian at a grade-crossing. At a public meeting two weeks ago, he called on state planners to build overpass-like rail structures instead of having trains cross busy streets.
“Come back when there is that accident and try to justify not putting in those safety enhancements,” Anderson said, according to Seattle television station KOMO. “Or you can go back now and advocate for the money to do it, because this project was never needed and endangers our citizens.”
The National Transportation Safety Board said it has a team of investigators on the way from Washington, D.C. (read more)