6 Killed, 77 Injured in ‘Catastrophic’ Train Derailment in Washington

December 18, 2017 Updated: December 18, 2017    

At least six people have been confirmed killed after a train derailed Monday from a highway overpass in Washington state, slammed onto the roadway underneath, and wrecked several vehicles, the Associated Press reported citing a Washington State official.

An additional 77 people were transported to hospitals in Pierce and Thurston counties, the Tacoma-based CHI Franciscan Health healthcare network said in a statement. Four of them were considered “level red” patients with the most severe injuries.

A total of 78 passengers and 5 crew members were onboard the train at the time of the derailment, according to Amtrak.

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People escaped the derailed train by kicking out windows, passenger Chris Karnes told local news outlet KIRO 7.

“All of a sudden, we felt this rocking and creaking noise, and it felt like we were heading down a hill,” Karnes said. “The next thing we know, we’re being slammed into the front of our seats, windows are breaking, we stop, and there’s water gushing out of the train. People were screaming.”

The derailment occurred on the first day Amtrak trains began using a new inland route between the cities of Tacoma and Olympia, part of a project to reduce travel time, according to an October news release from the state’s transportation department.

An Amtrak train seen hanging from a highway overpass in Washington State on Dec. 18. (WSPD/Twitter)

The rerouting takes trains along Interstate 5, eliminating a major choke point for passenger trains in Tacoma and allowing trains to reach speeds of 79 miles per hour, the department has said.

Monday’s train, which had been scheduled to depart Seattle at 6 a.m. for Portland, Oregon, was the first to run along the new route, which uses tracks owned by a local commuter line.

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 rerouting.

An Amtrak train hangs from a highway overpass in Washington State on Dec. 18. (WSPD/Twitter)

The train derailed around 7:30 a.m. in DuPont. A photograph posted by a Washington State Police spokeswoman showed an upside-down train car partially crushed on the highway, with a second car dangling off the overpass.

Authorities warned drivers to avoid the area, and southbound lanes remained closed.

The National Transportation Safety Board was sending a team of investigators to the site, the federal agency said on Twitter.

“Thank you to the first responders on the scene,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee wrote in a Twitter message. “We’re praying for everyone on board the train, and ask everyone to hold them in your thoughts.”

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.

Reuters contributed to this report.

From NTD.tv