Amtrak tragedy: High Speed train derails near Tacoma Washington, fatalities
Multiple deaths are being reported after an Amtrak train derailed Monday morning while traveling on the first day of a new route near Tacoma, Washington.
“There have been multiple casualties as a result of the Amtrak derailment near Tacoma, Washington,” Pierce County spokesman Ed Troyer said. “The casualties include multiple injuries and fatalities.”
The cause of the accident is under investigation. According to records, there were 78 passengers and five crew members on board, Amtrak said.
Passenger Chris Karnes told MSNBC that the train derailed while traveling on tracks that are part of a new route in and out of Tacoma. The southbound train had just passed the city of Dupont and was traveling about 70 mph, he said.
“At a certain point the train started to wobble a little bit and the next thing that we knew we were down in a ditch,” Karnes, member of a local transportation advisory group, said. “The train had crumpled.”
Karnes spoke as a rescue operation was still underway, describing inured people being lifted out of the wreckage.
Authorities say it may take days before the highway is fully reopened and the train has been properly removed.
Washington State Department of Transportation tweeted a picture of the derailment at 7:45 a.m. PST, showing what appeared to be a car on its side over a highway lane.
The tweet said, “All SB lanes of I-5 blocked near Mounts Road in Pierce County due to derailed train car. Avoid area!”
Following the incident, Amtrak tweeted that it had been made aware of the incident.
In the company’s statement it said, “Amtrak is aware of an incident with Train 501, Cascades service from Seattle to Portland. Emergency services are on the scene and Amtrak management is responding.”
“Amtrak service south of Seattle is temporarily suspended. Service from Seattle to points north and east is continuing to operate.”
The derailment happened on a newly established Amtrak route aimed at adding more frequent, more reliable and faster service Seattle and Portland, part of an $800 million project called the Cascades High-Speed Rail Capital Program.
The new route, called the Point Defiance Bypass Project, was billed as an improvement over tracks that hugged the scenic Puget Sound but included tight curves and single-track tunnels around Point Defiance. The new route uses an existing rail line that runs along Interstate 5 from south Tacoma through Dupont before reconnecting with the main line.
This story will be update as more information becomes available.