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Amtrak train No. 501 was going nearly three times its speed limit when it derailed off a bridge onto traffic on a busy interstate Monday morning, killing at least three and injuring over 100, officials said.
“Preliminary indications are that the train was traveling 80 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour track,” National Transportation Safety Board member Bella Dinh-Zarr said late Monday night.
The train was on its inaugural journey on a new route for the Cascades Seattle-to-Portland route when it jumped the rails and fell onto Interstate 5 around 7:45am PT. The train was on a curve with a 30-mph speed limit when it derailed. Amtrak said the train was not using positive train control, a system that would have automatically slowed the train as it entered the curve. The necessary sensors for positive train control are not scheduled to be put in place until next year.
Three people have died so far, and about 100 were hospitalized or treated for injuries, including many in critical condition. There were a reported 78 passengers and five crew members aboard.
Photos of the scene showed the train engine and 12 of its 14 cars off the rails and tumbling down onto the interstate. The wreckage was so perilously positioned that officials held off on providing a definitive count of the dead Monday night, saying it was possible that there were still bodies inside cars that rescue workers couldn’t safely access yet.
Several vehicles on the road were damaged as well, and the crash caused massive delays both for street traffic and trains between Seattle and Portland. In response, Alaska Airlines and Delta capped the price of flights between the two cities.
Featured image courtesy of Washington State Patrol.
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