NEWS
18/12/2017 16:54 GMT | Updated 19/12/2017 06:37 GMT

Amtrak Passenger Train Derails On Bridge And Falls On Highway Below In Washington State

Several deaths reported.

An Amtrak passenger train has derailed and fallen on to a busy highway in Washington State in America’s northwest, killing at least three people and injuring dozens, officials said. 

A spokesman for the local sheriff’s office, Ed Troyer, told reporters at the scene there were “multiple” deaths at the scene - roughly 50 miles southwest of Seattle - but did not have a specific number to report.

At least two train cars crashed onto Interstate 5 around 7.30am (1530 GMT), striking numerous vehicles on the highway, but no motorists were killed, Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, said.

“When we got to the scene, it was obvious there were some fatalities and there were a lot of injuries, and some people were able to get off the train,” he added. 

Pierce Co Sheriff
Seventy seven people have been taken to hospital after the derailment and multiple deaths have been reported
Pierce Co Sheriff
Approximately 78 passengers and five crew members were abroad the train when it crash, Amtrak said

Seventy seven people have been taken to hospital. 

Approximately 78 passengers and five crew members were aboard the train, Amtrak said in a statement.

The Amtrak Cascades 501 service reached speeds of up to 79mph, on a new route meant to bypass an area with heavy passenger train traffic, that opened on Monday. 

US President Donald Trump said the accident showed the necessity of an infrastructure plan.

“The train accident that just occurred in DuPont, WA shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly,” Trump said. “Seven trillion dollars spent in the Middle East while our roads, bridges, tunnels, railways (and more) crumble! Not for long!”

Before, in a second tweet ten minutes later, he extended his “thoughts and prayers” to those affected. 

Amtrak passenger Chris Karnes told local news outlet KIRO 7 that passengers were forced to kick out train windows in order to escape, because emergency doors were not functioning properly following the derailment.

Handout . / Reuters
An Amtrak passenger train in seen derailed on a bridge in Washington State

“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,” he added.

Photos from the scene show a carriage hanging from the bridge blocking all southbound lanes on the Interstate 5.

The derailment occurred on the first day that Amtrak trains began using a new track between the cities of Tacoma and Olympia, part of a project to reduce travel time, according to an October news release from the state’s transportation department.

Reuters
A map showing where the derailment occurred

The new route takes trains along Interstate 5, eliminating a major choke point for passenger trains in Tacoma, the release said.

It was not immediately clear whether the derailment, which came during a busy travel time one week before the Christmas holiday, was connected to the new route.

The train had been scheduled to leave Seattle at 6am (1400 GMT) and arrive in Portland, Oregon, at 9:20am (1720 GMT), according to an Amtrak timetable.

Monday was the first day that Amtrak offered a 6am departure on its Amtrak Cascades line as part of the rerouting project.

Authorities warned drivers to avoid the area, and the southbound lanes remained closed.

The National Transportation Safety Board said on Twitter that it was gathering information about the incident.

“Thank you to the first responders on the scene. We’re praying for everyone on board the train, and ask everyone to hold them in your thoughts,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee wrote in a Twitter message.

The mayor of one of the towns through which the rerouted trains travel warned earlier this month that the high-speed trains were dangerously close to cars and pedestrians.

“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,” Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson told transportation officials in early December, according to Seattle’s KOMO News.

A photograph posted on Twitter by the Washington State Department of Transportation showed a train car that had apparently veered off a bridge onto the highway below. The agency said southbound lanes were closed, and warned drivers to avoid the area.

The National Transportation Safety Board said on Twitter that it was gathering information about the incident.