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Derailed Amtrak train south of Seattle was travelling 80 km/hr over speed limit

Jenni Sheppard Dec 19, 2017 12:33 pm 5,074

The Amtrak Cascades train which derailed on the I-5 highway just south of Seattle, killing three people, was travelling at 80 mph in a 30 mph zone, it has been revealed.

The train derailed in Du Pont on Monday, sending all 12 train cars and one of its two engines off the tracks, hitting vehicles on the freeway below.

According to Amtrak, there were 86 people on the train. Some five motor vehicles and two semi-trucks were hit by the train on the highway.

Washington State Patrol say that, as well as the three people who died, 72 people were injured and transported to hospital, 10 in a serious condition.

Two of those who died have been named as Zack Willhoite and Jim Hamre, who were both members of the Rail Passengers Association and train enthusiasts.

On Tuesday, the association president Jim Mathews posted a statement on its website, remembering Willhoite and Hamre as passionate and respected.

“Both Jim and Zack have been advocates of transit and passenger rail for decades, and we can’t thank them enough for their work,” said Jim Mathews.

“Our thoughts are with their families at this time, as they work through this tragedy.”

The identities of the third victim of the train derailment have not yet been released.

First day of new train service

The Cascades trains provide a range of services between Vancouver, BC and Eugene, Oregon. This was a new daily train that only shuttled between Seattle and Portland.

In a statement, the Washington state Department of Transport (WSDOT) said this was the first day of public use of the tracks, after weeks of inspection and testing.

The National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating what happened and the train cars are slowly being taken from the crash site to a secure location.

In an update late Monday night, Bella Dinh-Zarr of the NTSB said the speed of the train had been established from a data download from the rear train engine.

However, she said it was “too early to tell” why the train was taking the corner so much faster than the posted speed limit of 30 mph.

The 30 mph limit is equivalent to 48 km per hour; the 80 mph speed of the train is equivalent to 129 km per hour.

In a Tuesday update, Dinh-Zarr said that the team investigating on-site had now retrieved the data download from the front train engine.

According to Dinh-Zarr, they found the emergency brake had been automatically activated during the incident, rather than being activated by the train’s engineer.

However, they were still working on getting footage from the cab’s inwards and outwards facing cameras, which were “significantly damaged” in the crash.

Amtrak Cascades adjust timetable

Trains are still leaving from Vancouver, but the Amtrak Cascades timetable between December 20 and January 2, 2018 has been adjusted due to the derailment.

Amtrak trains will leave Vancouver at 6:50 am daily, arriving in Portland at 2:50 pm. Another train will leave Vancouver at 6 pm daily, going as far as Seattle, arriving 10:10 pm.

For the journey back, Amtrak trains will run between Seattle and Vancouver daily, leaving at 7:45 am, arriving at 11:45 am.

As well, a train will leave Portland daily at 3:20 pm and arrive in Vancouver at 11 pm.

Until further notice, all Cascades and Coast Starlight trains will detour between Olympia-Lacey-Tacoma, operating out of the original Tacoma Station at 1001 Puyallup Avenue.

And, if you’re driving down the I-5 be ready for delays, diversions, and closures on a stretch of road usually used by 60,000 people every day.

Officials say they do not expect the highway to reopen south of Seattle until at least Wednesday and removing the train cars will add additional closures and delays.

Anyone worried about friends and family on the derailed train should call (800) 523-9101.

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Jenni Sheppard
Jenni is a former Senior Staff Writer at Daily Hive. Happy Vancouverite. Traveller, snowboarder, foodie, film fan, feminist, geek, cheesemaker, curler.

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