'Amtrak Cascades' victims remembered as passionate rail advocates

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SEATTLE - Two of the victims in Monday’s fatal Amtrak Cascades wreck near Olympia, Wash., were passionate advocates for passenger rail in the Pacific Northwest. On Tuesday, Jim Hamre, 61, and Zack Willhoite, 35, were the first victims identified from the wreck of Amtrak No. 501.

Hamre was a Rail Passengers Association (formerly National Association of Railroad Passengers) board member and vice president of All Aboard Washington, the state’s non-profit passenger advocacy group. Hamre worked on the Milwaukee Road in the early 1970s while studying at Washington State University. He later worked for the Washington State Department of Transportation and got involved in transportation advocacy in the early 1980s.

Willhoite was also a member of the Rail Passengers Association and on the board of All Aboard Washington, serving as the Director of Information Technology. Willhoite worked for Pierce Transit in Lakewood as an IT customer service support specialist.

“Both Jim and Zack have been advocates of transit and passenger rail for decades, and we can’t thank them enough for their work. Our thoughts are with their families at this time, as they work through this tragedy,” says Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews.

The two men were close friends and frequently rode trains together. Last week, they took one of the last Amtrak Cascades trains scheduled to take the original route along Puget Sound that was replaced by the Point Defiance Bypass, where train No. 501 derailed on its inaugural trip from Seattle to Portland.

“They were near if not best friends,” Harvey Bowen, president of All Aboard Washington, tells the Seattle Times. “They would participate together in a lot of the work we do to help bring better passenger trains to Washington. The train that they were riding on was an example of the work that they had been doing.”

The third victim of Monday’s wreck has not been publicly identified.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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