PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An Amtrak train making the first-ever run along a faster new route hurtled off an overpass Monday south of Seattle and spilled some of its cars onto the highway below, killing at least six people, authorities said. The death toll was expected to rise.
Washington State Patrol Trooper Brooke Bova said at a 4 p.m. press update that they are now only confirming 3 fatalities. “Some people are critically injured,” she said. “We have a lot of critical injuries.”
Seventy-seven passengers and 7 crew members (not 5 as previously announced) were aboard when the train moving at more than 80 mph derailed on a route that had raised safety concerns. Roughly 100 people were hospitalized, more than a dozen with critical or serious injuries, authorities said.
A total of 12 cars derailed and 2 engines were involved. Five cars and 2 semi-trucks were hit on freeway below. No motorists on the freeway were killed.
Bova said all the cars, including all the rail cars, have been searched.
Battalion Chief Jay Sumerlin with the West Pierce Fire Department said it was difficult to get everyone out of the train and to check each car.
“The firefighters were in a very dangerous place as the train dangled over I-5,” he said. Firefighters used “a lot of extrication tools, air chisels, Jaws of Life. Some of the rescues were by ladder. It was a difficult place to be.”
The official who was briefed on the investigation also says preliminary signs indicate the Amtrak train may have struck something on the track before going off the track.
The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The official said because the tracks were new it was unlikely to be a maintenance issue.
In a radio transmission immediately after the accident, the train’s conductor can be heard saying the train was coming around a corner and was crossing a bridge that passed over Interstate 5 when it derailed.
“I’m still figuring that out. We’ve got cars everywhere and down onto the highway,” he tells the dispatcher, who asks if everyone is OK.