The Amtrak train that derailed and killed at least six people in Washington Monday was on its first ride as a high-speed service linking Seattle and Portland.
All SB lanes of I-5 blocked near Mounts Road in Pierce County due to derailed train car. Avoid area! pic.twitter.com/SBH7dCc6yg— WSDOT Tacoma Traffic (@wsdot_tacoma) December 18, 2017
Authorities have not given an exact number of fatalities yet, but the Associated Press reports that at least six are dead.
BREAKING: U.S. official: At least 6 killed in Amtrak train derailment outside Seattle.— The Associated Press (@AP) December 18, 2017
Train 501 was going south when it derailed while crossing a bridge over Interstate 5 near DuPont, Washington around 7:40 a.m. PT, causing at least one car to fall onto the freeway below.
Amtrak confirmed its train was involved but did not provide further information.
"We are aware of an incident involving Amtrak train 501," the rail operator said on Twitter. "We will update with additional details as they become available."
It was the first day of the new high-speed Cascade service, which rerouted trains down 14 miles of updated track. The new bypass between Tacoma and DuPont is straighter, meaning that trains can go faster than they did on the windy old line.
Right before the bridge, there is a sizable curve in the track and it's believed that the train was going about 80mph at the time.
Seventy-eight passengers were on board, in addition to five crew members, KIRO reports. According to the Washington DOT, the train can carry about 250 passengers.
Law enforcement officials have not provided any specific figures yet, but say there have been injuries and casualties. First responders are reportedly treating the scene as a mass casualty event.
According to WSDOT, the train was running down a new bypass created to avoid slow curves and “single track tunnels on the BNSF Railway main line tracks near Point Defiance and along southern Puget Sound.”
Passenger Chris Karnes described the situation.
"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."
"The tracks for this line were supposed to be upgraded to be able to handle higher speeds," he added. "I'm not sure what happened at this juncture."
"I was traveling to work this morning along I-5 and we came to a sudden stop," Greg Mukai told CNN by phone. "We all tried to stop quickly to avoid running into each other to be honest. Once we all came to a stop I was able to look up and see, unfortunately, this scary thing of ... a train hanging off of the overpass. Lots of military personnel and people ran to try to help the best they could."
Danae Orlob told CNN there was a semi and a crushed truck underneath the train cars.0comments
"We came around the corner and it had to have just happened... there were no police there yet. There was one link of the train off to one side and the other on the other side of the freeway. There were crushed cars underneath. There was an insane amount of fire trucks and ambulances heading towards us."
Photo credit: Twitter / @wspd1pio