The high-speed Amtrak train that derailed on Monday near Olympia, Washington was going 81.1 mph just moments before it took a curve rated for only 30 mph, according to Federal investigators.
JUST IN: Federal investigators say the Amtrak train that derailed south of Seattle was traveling at 80 mph in a 30 mph zone. pic.twitter.com/eD9yNcwwF5
— FOX 29 (@FOX29philly) December 19, 2017
The difference between the trains actual speed and the posted speed for the turn will likely be an area of focus for National Transportation and Safety Board investigators, who are working to determine why Amtrak #501 – on its maiden voyage – left the tracks at the turn causing several train cars to plunge to the busy interstate below.
13 or the 14 cars in the train derailed with only the pusher engine remaining on the tracks. Several cars went into nearby woods, others dangled off an overpass, landed on the freeway or came to rest to the side of I-5.
Passenger Emma Shafer was in the car that dangled from an overpass after an Amtrak train derailed outside Seattle pic.twitter.com/JlfLOSHBWj
— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) December 19, 2017
More than 100 people were transported to hospitals in Piece and Thurston counties due to injuries with 11 seriously hurt and 2 people in critical condition. 3 people died in the crash according to officials.
Moments before the derailment the train was going 81.1 mph, according to transitdocs.com, which maps train speeds using data from Amtrak’s train tracker app. A track chart prepared by the Washington State Department of Transportation shows the maximum speed drops from 79 mph to 30 mph for passenger trains just before the tracks curve to cross I-5.
#Amtrak train that derailed near DuPont, WA was going 80 mph in a 30 mph zone, says @NTSB_newsroom. This animation shows how the locomotive missed the curve and crashed onto I-5 >> https://t.co/L7s6gOap6v pic.twitter.com/xQ8i99p5Km
— KING 5 News (@KING5Seattle) December 19, 2017
In an audio tape of the emergency call released by KUOW public radio, one of the train’s personnel in the pusher (trailing) engine describes the derailment just after it occurred.
“We’ve got cars everywhere!”
Listen to the call between the conductor of the derailed Amtrak train and BNSF dispatch. #Amtrak501
(Audio courtesy of Broadcastify) pic.twitter.com/jCfteUm7oj
— KUOW Public Radio (@KUOW) December 18, 2017
“Emergency, emergency. We are on the ground. We need EMS ASAP.” the unidentified Amtrak employee says. “We were coming around the corner to take the bridge . . . and we went on the ground . . . We got cars everywhere and down on to the highway.”
Anthony Raimondi, a retired Amtrak employee, was on Amtrak #501 Monday. He said the train took the curve when it began to wobble and then fell over.
“It just seemed to be going around the corner very fast and tipping over,” he said.
Keith Millhouse, a rail-safety consultant said that derailments happen due to human error, catastrophic mechanical failure, or debris on the track.
“Based on the speed of the train and looking at that curve, this is a case that is eerily similar to what happened in Philadelphia in 2015,” Millhouse said. “I believe for some reason, the likely cause was the train was going too fast going around this curve and derailing and tipping over as a result.”
After a deadly train derailment in Philadephia caused by excessive speed, Congress ordered all passenger trains to be equipped with positive train control (PTC) devices which can slow or stop a train that is moving faster than the rated track speed or in danger of missing a track signal.
Amtrak President Richard Anderson said that PTC was not activated on the tracks when the derailment happened.
“The big tragedy here is that if indeed it was over-speed, positive train control would have prevented this accident,” Millhouse said.