1/4/2018 – The NTSB has released a preliminary report after investigation of the Amtrak passenger train 501 derailment in DuPont. The report confirms the train was traveling at 78 mph when the lead locomotive, power car and two passenger cars derailed from the highway overpass over I-5, at milepost 19.86. Fourteen highway vehicles subsequently crashed, all making contact with the train. Three passengers were killed and 62 passengers and crew members were injured. Eight people in vehicles were injured. Damages are estimated to be over $40 million.
A 30-mph maximum speed sign was posted two miles before the train derailed, on the engineer’s side of the tracks. Another sign was posted on the wayside at the beginning of the curve, just before the site of the accident. Event data and video recorders processed by the agency has revealed the following information:
Inward-facing video with audio captured the crew’s actions and their conversations. A forward-facing video with audio captured conditions in front of the locomotive as well as external sounds.
The crew was not observed to use any personal electronic devices during the timeframe reviewed.
About 6 seconds prior to the derailment, the engineer made a comment regarding an over speed condition.
The engineer’s actions were consistent with the application of the locomotive’s brakes just before the recording ended. It did not appear the engineer placed the brake handle in emergency-braking mode.
The recording ended as the locomotive was tilting and the crew was bracing for impact.
The final recorded speed of the locomotive was 78 mph.
12/19/2017 – NTSB has confirmed through data recorder evidence that “the train was traveling at 80 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour track. The train was a 12 car train and it had a locomotive in both the front and the back. Amtrak estimates that 80 passengers were on the train with three crew and two service personnel in the café car. The question is ‘why was the train traveling at 80 miles an hour in a 30 mile an hour zone’ and the answer is ‘it’s too early to tell.’”
Bella Dinh-Zarr, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
12/18/2017 – It has been reported that at least three people have died this morning and dozens injured after a high-speed Amtrak train derailed just before 8:00 am, leaving train cars hanging over Interstate 5 near Lacey.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency:
“Today’s tragic incident in Pierce County is a serious and ongoing emergency. Trudi and I are holding in our hearts everyone on board, and are praying for the many injured. They are our top priority, and I know first responders are doing everything to ensure everyone has the care they need.
“Everyone should avoid traveling I-5, and WSDOT is working to open alternative routes through the area during the emergency response. This morning I spoke with my cabinet officials, and we are in touch with Amtrak who we know are working to provide as much information as possible.”
Timeline of events this morning:
6:00am: Amtrak schedule shows Train 501 scheduled to leave Seattle, due to arrive in Portland at 9:20am. This was to be the first full day of a new Cascades service that would use upgraded track routing further inland, to save time.
7:45am: Amtrak Cascades Train 501 crashes as it was heading southbound, derailing in DuPont, a city located between Tacoma and Olympia. The train was reported to have been traveling at 81.1 mph according to transitdocs.com, a website that maps train speeds and locations. One train car is reported to be upside down on the freeway, another suspended from overpass above.
9:30am: Amtrak issues statement, NTSB launches go-team to depart DC to investigate derailment:
Service Disruption South of Seattle
Amtrak Cascades Train 501, operating from Seattle and Portland, derailed south of Tacoma, Wash. There were approximately 78 passengers and five crew members on board. Initial reports are that some injuries are reported to passengers and crew, and taken to local medical facilities for treatment.
Individuals with questions about their friends and family on this train should call (800) 523-9101. Local emergency responders are on the scene.
Service from Seattle to points north and east is continuing to operate. Amtrak Cascades Trains 504 and 509 are cancelled. No alternate transportation will be available.
Additional updates will be provided when available.
This information is correct as of the above time and date. Information is subject to change as conditions warrant.
10:20am: News reports of “at least 70 people sent to St. Joseph Hospital, according to CHI Franciscan Health. 20 sent to the Madigan Army Medical Center.”
WSDOT Issues Statement:
Today’s (Monday, Dec 18) tragic derailment of the Amtrak Cascades southbound train has significantly impacted the lives of many this morning. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this event and their families.
We are working closely with multiple partners, including Washington State Patrol, Sound Transit, Amtrak, Pierce County, JBLM and local emergency responders to asses the situation and render assistance. After emergency response is complete, and the National Transportation Safety Board has released the scene, the train will be removed from the interstate right of way. We anticipate this will be a lengthy process due to the severity of the incident and the size and weight of the train cars. WSDOT is working with other agencies on any rerouting of traffic during the investigation.
The Amtrak Cascades train service is jointly owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Oregon Department of Transportation. Amtrak operates the service for the two states as a contractor, and is responsible for day-to-day operations. Amtrak Cascades runs trains from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Eugene, Oregon.
The tracks, known as the Point Defiance Bypass, are owned by Sound Transit. The tracks were previously owned by BNSF and were used for occasional freight and military transport. WSDOT received federal grants to improve the tracks for passenger rail service. As ownders of teh corridor, Sound Transit managed the track upgrade work under an agreement with WSDOT. Funding for the upgrades was provided by the Federal Railroad Administration, which reviewed work throughout the duration of the contract.
Today was the first day of public use of the tracks, after weeks of inspection and testing.
Passenger Describes Incident
Chris Karnes, who was on board near the front at the time of the crash, says emergency doors were not functioning properly and passengers had to kick out windows to escape:
“There was a lot of dust all over the place, and in order to get out of the car we had to kick out the window, the emergency window, because the emergency doors were not functioning,” he said.
“We had just passed the city of DuPont and it seemed like we were going around a curve,” Karnes said. “All of a sudden, we felt this rocking and creaking noise, and it felt like we were heading down a hill. The next thing we know, we’re being slammed into the front of our seats, windows are breaking, we stop, and there’s water gushing out of the train. People were screaming.”
“The tracks for this line were supposed to be upgraded to be able to handle higher speeds,” he continued. “I’m not sure what happened at this juncture.”
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