NTSB: ‘Amtrak Cascades’ train traveling at 80 mph moments before fatal wreck

Crews haul away wrecked equipment on Tuesday
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Two damaged Talgo cars sit on flatbed trailers after being taken from the scene earlier on Tuesday.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
TACOMA, Wash. – Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are combing the scene of Monday’s fatal Amtrak Cascades wreck looking for clues to why the passenger train was traveling at more than twice the posted speed moments before it went off the tracks, killing several passengers and injuring dozens more.

On Monday morning, train No. 501 from Seattle to Portland derailed on its inaugural run on the Point Defiance Bypass, a 14.5-mile route that moves passenger trains away from the Puget Sound and inland toward Interstate 5. The Washington State Patrol reported late Monday that at least three passengers were killed. Two of the victims were identified as Jim Hamre, a board member of the Rail Passenger Association and vice president of All Aboard Washington, and Zack Willhoite, an employee of Pierce Transit in Lakewood.

The train consisted of 12 cars and two locomotives. All but one of the locomotives derailed. The lead unit, a Siemens Charger, plowed through a patch of trees and ended up in the middle of the highway, along with a number of Talgo Series 6 passenger cars.

On Tuesday afternoon, crews trucked the Talgo cars out from the scene. They were taken to a secure location at a nearby military base where the NTSB will continue its investigation. The locomotive, a Siemens Charger, was expected to be move from the site Tuesday afternoon.

Late Monday night, NTSB member Bella Dinh-Zarr said investigators had recovered the event data recorder from the rear locomotive. Preliminary data showed the train was traveling at 80 mph moments before it entered the curve where it derailed. According to officials with Sound Transit, the Seattle-area commuter rail operator that owns the track, the curve has a 30 mph speed limit.

In a statement posted online late Monday, Amtrak officials said they were fully cooperating with the investigation.

“There is a thorough investigation underway to determine what happened,” railroad officials wrote. “At this time, we will not speculate about the cause, and we encourage others not to speculate as well.”

This story was edited 1:20 p.m. to incorporate the identities of the victims and to reflect the cleanup of the accident scene.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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