Update: As we mentioned lower in the boss, Monday’s deadly Amtrak train derailment in Washington state appears to have been caused by an object on the railway, according to a government official briefed on the crash.
The Associated Press reported that officials arrived at this conclusion following a brief investigation.
A preliminary investigation suggests maintenance problems are unlikely to blame because the incident took place on brand-new tracks, the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
At least six people were killed and the death toll is expected to rise, the official said.
The Amtrak 501 plunged off an overpass onto I-5 near Lacey, Washington, sometime before 7:45 a.m., during its inaugural run between Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon.
During an afternoon briefing on his national security strategy, President Trump expressed “our deepest sympathies and most heartfelt prayers for the victims,” adding: “We are closely monitoring the situation and coordinating with local authorities.”
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Update: A local official has reportedly told the Associated Press that preliminary signs suggest that the Amtrak train may have struck something on the track before derailing…
To recap, there were 78 passengers and five crew members aboard when the train, moving at more than 80 mph, derailed about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Seattle before 8 am local time.
Trump offered more words of support for the victims of today's crash during public comments about the US's security strategy Monday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the NTSB said it's launching a "go team" to further investigate…
NTSB says it is "launching a 'go-team' to investigate the Amtrak passenger train derailment" in Washinton, and the team will depart Washington, DC, today.
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) December 18, 2017
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Update: President Trump has offered his condolences to the victims of the crash and their families. He also tweeted that the crash "shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly."
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. Seven trillion dollars spent in the Middle East while our roads, bridges, tunnels, railways (and more) crumble! Not for long!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2017
My thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved in the train accident in DuPont, Washington. Thank you to all of our wonderful First Responders who are on the scene. We are currently monitoring here at the White House.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2017
The White House is reportedly gearing up to introduce a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to rebuild America's roads and bridges shortly after the new year.
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Update: The death toll has risen to six, according to local media reports. Meanwhile, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency as first responders are still struggling to process the scene of the accident.
Providence St. Peter Hospital received 10 patients from the derailment, according to spokesperson Chris Thomas. Of those patients, two are still in surgery at the time. The other eight patients did not require surgery, and are being treated in the emergency room, according to Thomas.
Inslee's state of emergency order means state agencies and departments will be able to tap into state resources in order to "do everything reasonably possible to assist affected political subdivisions in an effort to respond to and recover from the incidents."
Read the full order below:
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WHEREAS, on the morning of December 18, 2017, an Amtrak Train derailed onto Interstate 5 at the Mounts Road overpass in Pierce County near the Thurston County line, resulting in loss of life, injuries, and damage to infrastructure; and…
WHEREAS, the derailment has caused significant structural damage to the overpass, railway and highway infrastructure, resulting in closure of the overpass and Interstate 5 for the safety of the travelling public until repairs can be completed; and…
WHEREAS, the effects of the derailment and related rail and highway closures impact the life and health of the people as well as the property and infrastructure of Washington State, all of which is a public disaster that affects life, health, property, or the public peace; and…
WHEREAS, the Washington Military Department has activated the State Emergency Operations Center, implemented response procedures, is coordinating resources to support state and local officials in alleviating the immediate social and economic impacts to people, property and infrastructure, and is continuing to assess impacts resulting from incident…
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Jay Inslee, Governor of the state of Washington, as a result of the above-noted situation, and under Chapters 38.08, 38.52 and 43.06 RCW, do hereby proclaim that a State of Emergency exists in Pierce and Thurston counties in the state of Washington, and direct the plans and procedures of the Washington State Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan be implemented. State agencies and departments are directed to utilize state resources and to do everything reasonably possible to assist affected political subdivisions in an effort to respond to and recover from the incidents.
As a result of this incident, I also hereby order into active state service the organized militia of Washington State to include the National Guard and the State Guard, or such part thereof as may be necessary in the opinion of The Adjutant General, to perform such duties as directed by competent authority of the Washington Military Department in addressing this event. Additionally, the Washington State Emergency Operations Center is instructed to coordinate all incident-related assistance to the affected areas.
Signed and sealed with the official seal of the state of Washington this 18th day of December, A.D, Two Thousand and Seventeen at Olympia, Washington.
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Meanwhile, CNN has obtained the dramatic audio from the 911 call placed immediately after the crash:
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Update: At least three people have been killed in today's train derailment, according to the Seattle Times.
Though that figure may rise, as authorities are reporting "multiple" casualties.
Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer told news media that there were fatalities on the train and that motorists had been injured, but not killed. The full extent of the injuries is not yet known. It's believed that, while several motorists sustained injuries, nobody driving under the bridge was killed.
At least one train car fell on to the interstate below, as the photo above shows. Meanwhile, authorities say several vehicles on Interstate 5 were struck by the falling train cars when an Amtrak train derailed south of Seattle, and “multiple motorists” were injured on the roadway, according to the Associated Press.
Amtrak has also released this statement about service disruptions due to the accident:
Amtrak is aware of an incident with Train 501, Cascades service from Seattle to Portland. Emergency services are on the scene and Amtrak management is responding. Some injuries are reported.
Amtrak service south of Seattle is temporarily suspended. Service from Seattle to points north and east is continuing to operate.
Amtrak regrets any inconvenience. This information is correct as of the above time and date. Information is subject to change as conditions warrant.
Anyone can subscribe to automated email or text message notifications if Amtrak trains are behind schedule at specific stations. Notifications can be given for up to six trains and stations by either text or email and delivered when you choose – on a single day, every day, or just certain days of the week. Create a subscription at Amtrak.com/delayalerts.
Passengers with travel plans also can confirm their train's status, change their plans or review refund information using a range of tools – including Amtrak.com, smartphone apps or by calling 800-USA-RAIL. Service Alerts, Passenger Notices and other announcements are posted at Amtrak.com/alerts.
Chris Karnes, a passenger who was on the train three or four cars back from the front, spoke to a local TV station.
“I’m not sure what got hit. I’m not sure what happened,” Karnes said.
He was unhurt but near the medical tents set up in a median area between north- and sound-bound I-5, just south of DuPont.
“The only car that is on the tracks is the rear locomotive. There are several cars that are hanging over the overpass,” Karnes said.
According to WaPo, Troyer told reporters that there are fatalities and that the property damage is “catastrophic.” He said first responders are “in the woods, using chainsaws” trying to get to people. He couldn’t confirm the number of injured or dead.
“A lot of things need to be done before anyone can confirm any numbers,” he said.
The derailment occurred about halfway between Olympia and Tacoma, as the map below shows…
As we noted earlier, the derailment happened on the first day that trains were running on a new high-speed route between Seattle and Portland. 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.
About 70 people were aboard the train, local news media reported, citing the state transportation department, according to Reuters.
Authorities said 77 people were taken to the hospital.
“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.
In comments that may have proven eerily prescient, 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.
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A day after a power failure at Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson Airport – the busiest terminal in the world – left thousands of passengers stranded with flights only just beginning to resume, America's crumbling infrastructure was on display yet again on Monday, but this time, the failure looks much more severe.
To wit, Amtrak train 501 derailed in Pierce County, about 40 miles south of Seattle, according to media reports and images showing the train tumbling off the tracks and on to the freeway below. The derailment happened at around 8 am local time – or 11 am Eastern.
— CNBC Now (@CNBCnow) December 18, 2017
Images of the mangled wreckage flooded social media…
Interstate 5 is completely closed in both directions and dozens of first responders are heading to the scene, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), as the Seattle Times pointed out.
***DRIVER AlERT*** All lanes of SB I-5 at Mounts Road closed
— WSDOT Tacoma Traffic (@wsdot_tacoma) December 18, 2017
Here's a livefeed of the scene, courtesy of CBS…
The accident caused “massive damage” and “people are hurt,” according to Chris Karnes, the chairman of Pierce Transit’s advisory board. Police said information about injuries would be forthcoming.
PRELIMINARY INFO – Derailed Amtrak passenger train was heading south bound. Injuries and casualties reported, numbers to come. Media staging area at Eagles Pride Golf Course. #PCSD PIO Troyer enroute, will not answer his cell while driving priority.
— Pierce Co Sheriff (@PierceSheriff) December 18, 2017
Amtrak said in a tweet that it's "aware of the incident" and will update with additional details…
We are aware of an incident involving Amtrak train 501. We will update with additional details as they become available.
— Amtrak (@Amtrak) December 18, 2017
“We don’t have any information at the moment, we’re gathering it,” said Keith Holloway, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board.
"I was just shocked," said Peter Zimmerman of Olympia. "I couldn't believe it. It was like something out of a movie." According to the local TV station, the train was traveling along a new high speed route from Seattle to Portland that had just opened Monday.
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."
The project rerouted passenger trains to an inland route on an existing rail line that runs along the west side of I-5 through south Tacoma, Lakewood and DuPont and then reconnects back to the BNSF Railway main line near Nisqually on the east side of I-5.
The traffic back up is now three miles and growing. Monday morning was the first time Amtrak trains used the new Point Defiance Bypass route. It was the culmination of a $181 million project that began in 2010. A new Amtrak station also opened in Tacoma. The change would reduce the length of the trip by 10 minutes and separate Amtrak trains from freight lines that frequently cause delays on the Point Defiance route.