What We Know
It was Amtrak’s first passenger service to run on a new, shorter route. Amtrak is the company that runs most passenger trains in the US, with most government funding. The derailment happened on a section of track previously only used for freight trains. Train 501 had left Seattle, heading south for Portland, at 06:00 local time.
There were 86 people on board, including 77 passengers and seven Amtrak crew members, as well as a train technician. Police say 19 people were taken from the scene uninjured. Of the 72 transferred to hospital for evaluation, 10 were considered to have serious injuries.
One passenger carriage could be seen dangling from the bridge, while others were strewn across the road and the wooded area next to the track.
Bella Dinh-Zarr, an NTSB board member, said at a news conference late Monday that information from the data recorder in the rear locomotive provided information about the train’s speed, adding it was not yet known what caused the train to derail and that “it’s too early to tell” why the train was going so fast.
The FBI said in a statement that there was no information to suggest a nexus to terrorism or any elevated risk to Washington residents. The agency was assisting the NTSB in its investigation.
Amtrak train 501 heading southbound derailed around 7:30 a.m. local time after it left the new Tacoma station. The derailment left at least three people dead, while 72 people were hospitalized for medical evaluations, police said.
Passengers say the train rocked and creaked as it took the bend fast before barrelling off a bridge on to a motorway packed with traffic.
Photos from the scene showed at least one train car completely detached and fallen onto Interstate 5 below, while another dangled in the air. Drivers on the highway were injured, but none were killed, police said.
Passenger Chris Karnes, on board the train, said his carriage had careered down an embankment then come to a stop: “We could hear and feel the cars crumpling and breaking apart, and water came out from the ceiling.”
“In order to get out… we had to kick out the emergency window,” he added.
Photos from scene of amtrak passenger train derailment pic.twitter.com/gd09MzLCC6
— Pierce Co Sheriff (@PierceSheriff) December 18, 2017