At least six people were killed after Amtrak train 501 with 78 passengers and five crew on board on its inaugural run derailed and fell from an overpass between Tacoma and Olympia in Washington on Monday at rush hour around 7.40 am (1540 GMT), The Tacoma News Tribune reported.
All deaths occurred in the train, said Ed Troyer, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office spokesman.
“It’s pretty horrific,” he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is sending a 20-member team to investigate the deadly
derailment, spokesperson Bella Dinh-Zarr told media. They will be looking for the black box to find out at what
speed the train was travelling just before the accident and also interviewing passengers.
Several motorists on the highway had a providential escape as a couple of train cars fell near them. Many of them suffered injuries but there were no fatalities, the sheriff’s office said.
The train appears to have been speeding at over 75 miles per hour and the accident happened near a curve.
Pictures from the scene showed five overturned cars on the track, one dangling onto the highway from the overpass above and a couple of cars lying on the road along with the locomotive.
The train was part of a newly expanded faster rail service along the route linking Seattle and Portland, Oregon, featuring new locomotives. More than 70 passengers have been taken to either St Joseph Hospital or Madigan Army Medical Center.
The accident disrupted traffic on Interstate 5 and police warned motorists that traffic near Joint Base Lewis-McChord would be blocked for several hours.
“We had just passed the city of DuPont and it seemed like we were going around a curve,” passenger Chris Karnes told local CBS News affiliate KIRO-TV.
“All of a sudden, we felt this rocking and creaking noise, and it felt like we were heading down a hill,” said Karnes, adding that several cars had gone off the tracks and passengers kicked out the windows to escape.
“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.”
Karnes said the tracks were supposed to have been upgraded to accommodate higher speeds.
“I’m not sure what happened,” he said.