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Amtrak chief 'sorry' for derailment near Seattle; NTSB looks for cause

By Sara Shayanian
Amtrak chief 'sorry' for derailment near Seattle; NTSB looks for cause
Amtrak train 501 is seen after derailing on an overpass in DuPont, Wash., on Monday. Three people were killed in the accident. Photo by Washington State Patrol/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Amtrak's chief executive apologized Wednesday for this week's train derailment that killed three passengers and injured dozens of riders south of Seattle.

"It's not acceptable that we are involved in these kinds of accidents. We are terribly sorry to the people that are involved," Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson said.

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Anderson called the crash "a wake-up call" and said the company is determined to run "the safest railroad in the world."

The train derailed in DuPont, Wash., Monday morning -- and sent one car crashing from an overpass onto a busy Interstate 5.

RELATED Officials: Amtrak train speeding 50 mph over limit before derailment

According to federal officials, the engineer of the Amtrak train was not alone in the train's cab -- which is normal operating procedure.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident and will likely examine whether the presence of another person in the cab could have distracted the engineer.

Amtrak 501 was traveling 80 mph around a 30-mph stretch of track around the time of the crash, the NTSB found Tuesday. Although the precise cause is still unknown, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee vowed Tuesday to get to the bottom of it.

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RELATED Multiple people dead after Amtrak train crash in Washington

"Given the nature of nature of this tragedy and given the extent of loss, I feel we will succeed in improving rail transit out of this," Inslee said.

The governor also said President Donald Trump was "jumping to conclusions" in a tweet about his infrastructure plan to improve potentially unsafe roads and railways across the United States.

"The train accident ... 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!" the tweet said.

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"We don't know at the moment whether infrastructure, meaning the rail bed or the bridge, played any role in this accident at the moment," Inslee answered.

"We simply don't know that, so I would say that was perhaps jumping to conclusions before the investigation has been completed. The president did not follow my advice, which is let's not jump to conclusions before we make decisions."

If lawsuits are brought against Amtrak, the company is limited to paying $295 million total -- no matter how many people are dead or injured.

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The cap, put in place by the 1997 Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act, originally set a $200 million maximum for "allowable awards to all rail passengers, against all defendants, for all claims, including claims for punitive damages, arising from a single accident."

In 2015, the limit was raised to $295 million.

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