3 killed as Amtrak train derails south of Seattle; was travelling at 80 mph in a 30 zone, says NTSB

Click to play video: 'At least 3 dead after Amtrak train derailment in Washington State'
At least 3 dead after Amtrak train derailment in Washington State
WATCH ABOVE: At least three people were killed Monday when an Amtrak train derailed in Washington state – Dec 19, 2017

At least three people were killed and scores of others were transported to hospital when an Amtrak train derailed south of Seattle at 7:40 a.m. Monday.

There were 72 passengers aboard the train who were evaluated for injury, Washington State Police Capt. Dan Hall, said Monday night. Ten of the passengers were said to be in serious condition while 13 others were left with moderate or minor injuries.

The NTSB took over the investigation on Monday night from Washington State Police and the FBI.

Officials with the NTSB said Monday night that the train was travelling at 80 miles per hour in a zone where the limit was 30 miles per hour.

Earlier media reports had said there were six killed, but officials couldn’t confirmed that number.

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While officials couldn’t confirm if all passengers had been accounted for, fire officials said they had searched all the train cars for survivors.

Five cars and two semi trucks on the I-5 were struck by the derailed cars and multiple drivers were injured and rushed to hospital. Traffic is currently being diverted and the highway will likely stay closed into the morning, officials said. Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste said the highway wouldn’t be open until the Department of Transportation inspected both the train bridge and the roadbed.

Nearby Madigan Hospital received 20 patients. King5 reports nine people are in serious but stable condition and 11 people are in “fair” and stable condition.

WATCH: ‘We need EMS ASAP’: conductor tells dispatcher following Amtrak train derailment

Click to play video: 'Audio of radio chatter between Amtrak train, dispatcher in moments following derailment'
Audio of radio chatter between Amtrak train, dispatcher in moments following derailment

Eighty passengers and five crew members were on board the train when it derailed. Amtrak raised the number of passengers aboard Monday evening as two employees were on the train but were on employee passes.

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The train was made up of 12 cars and two engines. Thirteen of those cars jumped the track.

One of the cars contained diesel fuel. At its maximum the car could hold 350 gallons of fuel, but officials couldn’t confirm if it was full.

This was Amtrak Train 501, which is a new service starting today running from Seattle to Portland. The train was on its inaugural trip.

The engines were equipped with positive train control – the technology that can slow or stop a speeding train – but it wasn’t in use on this stretch of track, according to Amtrak President Richard Anderson.

Anderson said he was “deeply saddened by all that has happened today,” during a conference call with reporters on Monday.

Radio transmissions from the train just moments after the derailment have now been released.

“Emergency, emergency, emergency, we are on the ground,” one of the crew members can be heard saying. “We need EMS ASAP, it looks like they’re already starting to show up.”

When asked what happened, the crew members says “we were coming around the corner to take the bridge over I-5 there, right north into Nisqually and we went on the ground.”

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“We’ve got cars everywhere and even down on to the highway.”

Chris Karnes was a passenger on the train when the incident happened.

“All of a sudden we were slammed into the seats in front of us and then the car careened down an embankment,” he said. “We could hear and feel the cars crumbling and breaking apart. There was a lot of dust all over the place.”

He said they had to kick out the emergency window because the emergency doors were not functioning. “Multiple people injured,” he said. “Cuts, people bleeding, I did see one person laying on the ground who was not moving.”

A person who witnessed the crash said it happened so fast.

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“It just jumped the curb and ‘bam,'” one witness told King5. She said the train went off the track just as it curves.

WATCH: Motorist describes watching Amtrak train derailment:

Click to play video: 'Motorist describes watching Amtrak train derailment in Washington state'
Motorist describes watching Amtrak train derailment in Washington state

It is unclear exactly how the train derailed but reports state the train hit a truck. The train was reportedly travelling 130 km/h at the time of the derailment but it can go much faster.

According to The Associated Press, the maximum speed along that stretch, which is known as Point Defiance Bypass, is 79 mph, or about 127 km/h. This is according to information about the project posted online by the Washington State Department of Transportation.


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Credit: Danae Orlob/ Twitter.
Credit: Danae Orlob/ Twitter.

Witness Chris Karnes was on the train and he spoke to CBS News Monday morning saying they had just passed the city of DuPont, which is between Tacoma and Olympia.

“At a certain point it seemed we were reaching a sort of a bend in the tracks and all of a sudden we were slammed into the seats in front of us, and then the car careened down an embankment,” he said.

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I-5 southbound is closed at the Mounts Road overpass, with one lane northbound also closed.

The Washington State Department of Transportation is warning everyone to avoid the area and restrict travel if possible.

Amtrak service south of Seattle is temporarily suspended. Service from Seattle to points north and east is continuing to operate. Amtrak Cascades 504 and 509 are cancelled.


This was Amtrak’s 10th derailment in the last seven years.

April 3, 2016: Two maintenance workers were struck and killed by an Amtrak train going more than 100 mph in Chester, Pennsylvania. The lead engine of the train derailed.

March 14, 2016: An Amtrak train travelling from Los Angeles to Chicago derailed in southwest Kansas, sending five cars off the tracks and injuring at least 32 people. Investigators concluded that a cattle feed delivery truck hit the track and shifted it at least a foot before the derailment.

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Oct. 5, 2015: A passenger train headed from Vermont to Washington, D.C., derailed when it hit rocks that had fallen onto the track from a ledge. The locomotive and a passenger car spilled down an embankment, derailing three other cars and injuring seven people.

May 12, 2015: Amtrak Train 188 was travelling at twice the 50 mph speed limit as it entered a sharp curve in Philadelphia and derailed. Eight people were killed and more than 200 were injured when the locomotive and four of the train’s seven passenger cars jumped the tracks. Several cars overturned and ripped apart.

March 9, 2015: At least 55 people were injured when an Amtrak train bound from North Carolina to New Jersey derailed after colliding with an oversized tractor-trailer that was stuck on the tracks in Halifax, N.C.

June 23, 2014: An Amtrak train hit a vehicle that was apparently driving on train tracks in Massachusetts, killing three people in the vehicle and derailing the train just before midnight in a remote area about 24 miles southwest of Boston. None of the 180 people on board the train was injured.

Oct. 21, 2012: About a dozen passengers and crew members on an Amtrak train from Chicago to Pontiac, Mich., were injured when two locomotives and one or more coaches derailed after the train lost contact with the track near Niles, Mich.

Oct. 2, 2012: Two cars and the locomotive of an Amtrak train carrying about 169 passengers derailed after colliding with a semitrailer in California’s Central Valley. At least 20 passengers suffered minor to moderate injuries. The train was travelling from Oakland to Bakersfield.

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June 24, 2011: A truck slammed into the side of an Amtrak California Zephyr train at a rural crossing 70 miles east of Reno, Nev., killing six people and injuring dozens. The train was travelling from Chicago to California.

  • With files from Jesse Ferreras

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