National News

Amtrak Derailment Leaves Multiple People Dead in Washington State

Posted December 18, 2017 2:34 p.m. EST
Updated December 18, 2017 2:36 p.m. EST

Multiple people were killed and more than 75 were taken to local hospitals after an Amtrak train derailed from a highway overpass in Washington state on Monday morning, according to local authorities.

At least one train car was left leaning against the overpass while another had flipped over on Interstate 5 below, according to photographs and local authorities.

“When we got to the scene it was obvious that there were some fatalities and there were a lot of injuries,” Detective Ed Troyer, a spokesman with the sheriff’s office in Pierce County, Washington, told local television reporters.

Cars and trucks on the highway were struck by the train, but fatalities were limited to those aboard, Troyer said. The train, No. 501, was carrying about 78 passengers and five crew members, according to Amtrak.

CHI Franciscan Health, a regional hospital network, said in a statement that 77 people were transported to hospitals in Pierce and Thurston counties. Four were classified “level red,” reflecting the most severe injuries.

In a statement, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the derailment was a “top priority.” He declared a state of emergency.

“Today’s tragic incident in Pierce County is a serious and ongoing emergency,” he said. “Trudi and I are holding in our hearts everyone on board, and are praying for the many injured,” he said, referring to his wife.

Steve Crimmins, battalion chief with Lacey Fire District 3, said in a telephone interview that there were “multiple” critically injured patients. Medics were still evaluating the injured and transporting patients, he said.

Firefighters were called around 7:30 a.m. local time. The derailment happened on a railroad overpass above Interstate 5, which is the major north-south route, he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was gathering information about the accident.

Amtrak said the train, part of its Cascades route, was headed south from Seattle to Portland. The accident happened about 15 miles east of Olympia, Washington, and service was suspended south of Seattle.

President Donald Trump responded on Twitter by citing the accident as reason for swift passage of his forthcoming infrastructure plan. In a second tweet, about 10 minutes later, he offered his “thoughts and prayers” to those involved.

“My thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved in the train accident in DuPont, Washington,” Trump wrote. “Thank you to all of our wonderful First Responders who are on the scene. We are currently monitoring here at the White House.”

Amtrak’s Cascades service, which the states of Oregon and Washington jointly manage and operate, is a popular route that mostly runs through rural counties and small towns. Renowned among leisure travelers searching for scenery, or just hoping to avoid the traffic of Interstate 5, trains curl along the Puget Sound’s South Basin and past heavily wooded areas and farmland.

Ordinarily, the trip between Seattle and Portland takes less than four hours. According to an Amtrak schedule, train No. 501 was scheduled to leave Seattle at 6 a.m. and arrive in Portland at about 9:20 a.m.

SoundTransit, a regional transit authority for King, Pierce and Snohomish, owns the section of track where the crash occurred, the Nisqually track, said Kimberly Reason, a spokeswoman for the authority. The track was recently upgraded so that the state’s department of transportation could operate Amtrak’s Cascades service there.

Reason said that the state’s department of transportation had previously been operating its Amtrak service along the coast. In order to shave time and as of Monday morning, it rerouted that service to the Nisqually track, farther inland. This was the first day of full revenue service for the Cascades service, Reason said.