An Amtrak train has derailed on an overpass in Washington state, with at least two train cars falling onto the highway below. Authorities say multiple fatalities and injuries have been reported. At this time, all southbound lanes of traffic remain blocked on Interstate 5.
The Washington State Department of Transportation tweeted a photo of the derailment, urging motorists to avoid the area.
first responders are treating the derailment as a mass casualty incident. Authorities have not yet provided details on injuries.
Amtrak train 501, which departed shortly before 8 a.m. local time from Tacoma, was part of a new service that launched Monday morning. The train is able to carry up to 250 people, but Amtrak said there were approximately 78 passengers and five crew members on board at the time.
The Cascades service from Seattle to Portland was supposed to be rated for a maximum speed of 79 mph for the section where it derailed in DuPont, according to passenger Chris Karnes.
Karnes, who was on board the train when it derailed, said at least seven cars derailed from the tracks. The emergency doors were not functioning correctly, which forced passengers to kick out train windows to exit.
“The tracks for this line were supposed to be upgraded to be able to handle higher speeds,” he added. “I’m not sure what happened at this juncture.” The train tracks themselves are not owned by Amtrak; they’re maintained by a freight railroad.
Motorist Greg Mukai, who witnessed the derailment from the highway, described the incident as “really scary stuff.”
“We suddenly had to go from our 60 mph down to zero as fast as possible,” he said. “We were all avoiding one another to try and avoid a collision there. We saw smoke and the passenger train hanging from the overpass and on the freeway.”
The cause of the derailment remains under investigation. An NTSB team will be sent from Washington, D.C., to investigate the incident.