DUPONT, WA (RNN) – Several deaths have been reported after an Amtrak train derailed in Washington state Monday morning, blocking all southbound lanes of Interstate 5.
Train cars toppled off of a bridge onto the interstate below.
Pierce County Sheriff tweeted train hit several cars when it fell onto the interstate. Sheriff’s spokesperson Ed Troyer said several motorists were injured, but all of the reported deaths are from passengers on the train. The total number of injuries and deaths is unknown.
The Associated Press reports six people are dead and cite officials, but no formal statement has been made yet. A news conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. Eastern.
“Something went very, very wrong and there are some questions we will demand to be answered,” said Rep. Denny Heck. “It’s a nightmarish image.”
Train 501 was traveling south out of Tacoma and derailed at about 7:40 a.m. local time between Tacoma and Olympia in Dupont, about 40 miles south of Seattle.
Seventy-seven people were reportedly transported to area hospitals. Amtrak said there were approximately 78 passengers and five crew members on board the train.
Monday was the first day of service for Amtrak Cascades, a new high-speed service, on the new route called Bypass of Point Defiance. The route was moved inland through more populated areas. The previous coastal route often encountered single-track tunnels that freight trains also shared, slowing down service. The high-speed Cascade trains can travel up to 79 mph, cutting travel time between Seattle and Portland, OR, by 25 minutes.
CNN played a recording of the communication between the conductor and dispatch right after the accident:
Dispatch: “Hey guys what happened.”
Conductor: “We were coming around the corner to take the bridge over I-5 there … and we went on the ground.”
Dispatch: “Okay, is everybody okay?”
Conductor: “I’m still figuring that out. We got cars everywhere and it’s down onto the highway.”
According to several local reports, Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson was against the new bypass project and expressed his concerns when WSDOT workers came to Lakewood to give an update on the high-speed rail plan.
KOMO quoted the mayor saying, “Come back when there is that accident, and try to justify not putting in those safety enhancements, or you can go back now and advocate for the money to do it, because this project was never needed and endangers our citizens.”
Chris Karnes was on the train when it derailed. He’s a member of the Pierce County Transit Advisory Board.
“We went down an embankment to the right of the tracks. The other cars all derailed. The only thing left that was on the track was the rear locomotive,” he said. “After the accident, we had to kick out the emergency window and climb down the embankment in order to get help for the injured passenger.”
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