Multiple people dead after Amtrak train crash in Washington

By Ed Adamczyk and Danielle Haynes  |  Updated Dec. 18, 2017 at 8:10 PM
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Dec. 18 (UPI) -- At least three people died Monday when an Amtrak train derailed on an overpass causing at least of its cars to crash down onto a busy freeway in northwest Washington state, local officials said.

Amtrak 501 was traveling from Seattle to Portland, Ore., Monday morning when it derailed in DuPont, Wash., authorities said. One car was left dangling from the overpass and one crashed onto busy Interstate 5 below. At least five motor vehicles were struck in the crash.

DuPont Fire Chief Larry Creekmore confirmed three people died and more than 100 were transported to local hospitals.

Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff's Office, said emergency officials haven't yet searched all the rail cars because they weren't safe.

"We know that there's nobody alive in them at this point, but there are some other fatals that we are probably going to find," he said. "We just don't know until they can shore up those train cars and get in there and search them."

The train car struck several vehicles on the highway, but all of the dead were train passengers, KIRO-TV reported.

Trooper Brooke Bova, spokeswoman for Washington State Patrol, said there were two engines and 12 cars in the train, and a total of 13 derailed.

An Amtrak official said the train was not using positive train control, a mechanism that can prevent train derailments caused by excessive speed.

"All lanes of southbound I-5 at Mounts Road closed," the Washington State Department of Transportation said in a tweet.

Seven crew members and 78 passengers were aboard the train when it derailed, officials said.

First responders identified the derailment as a "mass casualty incident."

"Emergency crews are on the scene and the Amtrak Management is responding," Amtrak said in a statement.

DuPont is about 35 miles southwest from Seattle and 15 miles from Tacoma.

"Today's tragic incident in Pierce County is a serious and ongoing emergency. Trudi and I are holding in our hearts everyone on board, and are praying for the many injured," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted.

The governor declared a state of emergency.

President Donald Trump offered his "thoughts and prayers" for the victims and praise for first responders.

"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!" he tweeted.

The Seattle Times reported the train was traveling along a new 14.5-mile bypass track connecting Seattle to Portland. It was the inaugural trip on the track for passengers.

The existing overpass where the derailment occurred had been retrofitted with all new rails, said Janet Matkin, spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The Times reported the retrofit was paid for in part by federal stimulus money granted under the Obama administration. The state received $800 million.

Trump's 2017 budget proposal cut federal aid for long-distance Amtrak routes by $630 million.

The president has proposed leveraging $200 billion in federal spending to inspire $800 billion in state and local spending to boost infrastructure. He said he wants to use the combined $1 trillion to repair the nation's transportation infrastructure, including roads, bridges, railroads and airports.

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