An Amtrak passenger train on its first trip on a new service route derailed Monday morning near Dupont, Washington, spilling 13 cars off an Interstate 5 overpass and killing several people, according to the spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington State Patrol.
The deaths “are all contained to the train,” said Ed Troyer, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office spokesman. “It’s pretty horrific.” Troyer said there were three fatalities.
— About 77 people were transported to hospitals in Pierce and Thurston counties, officials said. Four of them suffered serious injuries, according to Cary Evans, spokesman for CHI Franciscan Health.
— Amtrak President & Co-CEO Richard Anderson said “Positive Train Control” was not activated on the tracks when the derailment happened. PTC is a technology which automatically slows down, and eventually stops, a train if it senses it is going too fast.
— Thirteen cars jumped the track. The train had 14 cars, including two engines, said Brook Bova of the Washington State Patrol.
— A passenger on the train says his car derailed and everyone “catapulted” into the seat in front of them.
— The National Transportation Safety Board announced it is sending a 20-member team to investigate.
The crash happened about 7:40 a.m. local time near the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Dupont, about 20 miles south of Tacoma. The train was running southbound from Seattle when 13 rail cars derailed in a curve near an interstate overpass, sending them onto the highway below and shutting down traffic.
Several motorists in vehicles that were struck by the fallen train cars suffered injuries, but there were no fatalities among people in those vehicles, the sheriff’s office said. Five cars and two semi-trucks were involved in the crash, Bova said.
The train was carrying 77 passengers and 7 crew members, said Washington State Patrol spokeswoman Brooke Bova at a news conference. Monday was the first day of Amtrak 501’s Cascades service between Seattle and Portland, Amtrak said.