NTSB: Train traveling at 80 mph in 30 mph zone before derailment - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

NTSB: Train traveling at 80 mph in 30 mph zone before derailment

The Cascades train jumped the tracks and fell onto Interstate 5 outside of Tacoma, WA. (Source: Washington State Police/Twitter) The Cascades train jumped the tracks and fell onto Interstate 5 outside of Tacoma, WA. (Source: Washington State Police/Twitter)
An Amtrak train derailed south of Tacoma, WA, on Monday morning and fell onto Interstate 5. (Source: @wsdot_tacoma/Twitter) An Amtrak train derailed south of Tacoma, WA, on Monday morning and fell onto Interstate 5. (Source: @wsdot_tacoma/Twitter)
A train derailed south of Tacoma, WA, on Monday. (Source: Denae Orlob via CNN) A train derailed south of Tacoma, WA, on Monday. (Source: Denae Orlob via CNN)
Amtrak Cascades began using the Point Defiance Bypass (orange line) on Dec. 18. Before that, trains ran along Puget Sound (green line). (Source: WSDOT/Amtrak) Amtrak Cascades began using the Point Defiance Bypass (orange line) on Dec. 18. Before that, trains ran along Puget Sound (green line). (Source: WSDOT/Amtrak)
Recovery efforts stretched into the night Monday after an Amtrak passenger train derailed onto a highway in Dupont, WA. (Source: KIRO/CNN) Recovery efforts stretched into the night Monday after an Amtrak passenger train derailed onto a highway in Dupont, WA. (Source: KIRO/CNN)

DUPONT, WA (RNN) -  After an Amtrak train derailed in Washington state Monday morning, killing three people and injuring dozens more, the National Transportation Safety Board found information from the train's event data recorder that indicated speed may have been a factor in the accident.

Making its first-ever run along a new, faster route, the train was traveling at 80 mph in a 30 mph zone, officials said Monday night.

A Washington State Department of Transportation track chart shows the maximum speed on the curve where the train derailed drops from 79 mph to 30 mph.

The train was clocked at 81.1 mph a quarter of a mile from the derailment site. 

Bella Dinh-Zarr, an NTSB board member, said it's not yet known what caused the train to derail and that "it's too early to tell" why it was going so fast, according to the Associated Press.

Technology that can slow or stop a speeding train, called positive train control, was not in use on the stretch of track where the train derailed, according to Amtrak President Richard Anderson, who spoke with reporters via conference call.

CNN reports the technology had, however, been installed at the time of the accident.

Train cars toppled off of a bridge onto Interstate 5 below early Monday. Washington State Police spokeswoman Brooke Bove said 13 train cars derailed, and an additional five vehicles and two 18-wheelers were impacted on the interstate. Bova said officials were also concerned about leaking fuel at the crash site.

Sheriff's spokesperson Ed Troyer said several motorists were injured, but all of the reported deaths are from passengers on the train. 

At a Monday night press briefing, Capt. Dan Hall with the Washington State Patrol said 19 people - including motorists and people aboard the train - were transported from the scene uninjured and 72 people were transported and evaluated. Of those 72, 10 are in serious condition, four suffered moderate injuries and 9 had minor injuries. Of the 10 in serious condition, one had severe injuries that required a life flight to an emergency facility.

Monday night, officials updated the number of people aboard the train at the time. There were 80 paying passengers, two Amtrak employees riding on their free passes and and five on-duty crew members. 

“Something went very, very wrong and there are some questions we will demand to be answered,” said Rep. Denny Heck. “It’s a nightmarish image.”Train 501 was traveling south out of Tacoma and derailed at about 7:40 a.m. local time between Tacoma and Olympia in Dupont, about 40 miles south of Seattle.

Monday was the first day of service for Amtrak Cascades, a new high-speed service, on the new route called Bypass of Point Defiance. The route was moved inland through more populated areas. The previous coastal route often encountered single-track tunnels that freight trains also shared, slowing down service. The high-speed Cascade trains can travel up to 79 mph, cutting travel time between Seattle and Portland, OR, by 25 minutes.

CNN played a recording of the communication between the conductor and dispatch right after the accident:

Dispatch: “Hey guys what happened.”

Conductor: “We were coming around the corner to take the bridge over I-5 there … and we went on the ground.”

Dispatch: “Okay, is everybody okay?”

Conductor: “I’m still figuring that out. We got cars everywhere and it’s down onto the highway ... As soon as I know exactly where all of my train is, I’ll let you know."

According to several local reports, Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson was against the new bypass project and expressed his concerns when WSDOT workers came to Lakewood to give an update on the high-speed rail plan.

KOMO quoted the mayor saying, "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."

The multi-year, state-led project cost $181 million, a released from Amtrak stated.

Chris Karnes was on the train when it derailed.  He’s a member of the Pierce County Transit Advisory Board.

“We went down an embankment to the right of the tracks.  The other cars all derailed. The only thing left that was on the track was the rear locomotive,” he said. “After the accident, we had to kick out the emergency window and climb down the embankment in order to get help for the injured passenger.”

A witness described the scene of the derailment as "sobering" with cars crushed under the fallen train.

"It’s sobering to say the least. You just knew when you saw it that something horrible had happened," witness Danae Orlob said. "There were crushed cars underneath. There was an insane amount of fire trucks and ambulances heading towards us."

Witness Greg Mukai was on his way to work when the traffic on I-5 came to a sudden stop and he could see the train dangling from an overpass. He said people got out of their cars to help, including "lots of military personnel." The incident took place near Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Amtrak suspended service south of Seattle following the derailment.

Monday afternoon Amtrak President and CEO Richard Andrews sent a Twitter message regarding the incident; 

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a "go team" of 20 from Washington, DC, to investigate the derailment. Members of the team are specialists in train accidents and equipment.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted a thank you to first responders as soon as the derailment was reported.

"Thank you to the first (responders) on the scene," Inslee said Twitter. "We're praying for everyone on board the train and ask everyone to hold them in your thoughts."

In its Monday night statement, Amtrak said a Passenger Reception Center is working with families of people who were on the train and listed a hotline, 800-523-9101, that family members with questions can call. 

"We will do everything in our power to support these passengers, our employees and their families.  We are committed to taking care of them and providing the highest level of assistance possible during their time of need," the statement said.

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