Victims of Amtrak Train Derailment Identified

December 19, 2017 Updated: December 19, 2017

A rail advocate and a transit employee were among the three people killed in Monday’s Amtrak train derailment, Fox News reported.

Zack Willhoite and Jim Hamre were killed when an Amtrak train traveling 80mph in a 30 mph zone derailed from a highway overpass and smashed onto the roadway underneath, wrecking several cars. Willhoite was a transit employee and Hamre was a rail advocate. Both were members of the Rail Passengers Association.

Another 100 people were taken to hospitals, 10 with serious injuries.

“Jim was among the country’s most-respected and effective rail advocates and a good friend and mentor to me. I will miss his counsel, and our community is poorer for his loss,” Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews said in a statement, reported Fox News.

“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,” Mathews continued.

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Investigators begin analysis at the scene where an Amtrak passenger train derailed on a bridge over interstate highway I-5 in DuPont, Washington, U.S. Dec. 18, 2017. (Reuters/Steve Dipaola)

The chair of Pierce transit’s Advisory Board, Chris Karnes, described Willhoite as a “rail aficionado.”

“It’s heartbreaking to hear that Pierce transit employee and rail aficionado Zack Willhoite did not survive the derailment,” Karnes wrote on Twitter. “He helped our advisory committee with IT issues, and behind the scenes he was a writer and advocate for better transit for all. He will be missed.”

Workers lifted mangled train cars onto flatbed trucks on Tuesday from the wreckage of the train. All 12 carriages and one of its two locomotives tumbled off the rails, officials said.

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Map of derailment site. (Reuters)

Workers used two towering cranes in wet, windy weather as they sought to reopen the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 – a major West Coast highway stretching from the Canadian border to Mexico. They expected to remove five of the cars and the locomotive by Tuesday afternoon and take them to a nearby U.S. military base for further examination by federal investigators, officials said.

The locomotive alone weighs more than 270,000 pounds and will require an extra-large truck to move, Dan Hall, the regional commander for the Washington State Patrol, said at a news conference.

“It’s going to take quite a feat to get that out of there,” Hall told reporters. “We’re still working on the logistics on how exactly we’re going to do that.”

The southbound stretch of highway will remain closed for several days, the Washington State Department of Transportation said.

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Rescue personnel and equipment are seen at the scene where an Amtrak passenger train derailed on a bridge over interstate highway I-5 in DuPont, Washington, U.S., Dec. 18, 2017. (Reuter/Steve Dipaola/File Photo)

The train was traveling on a new, slightly quicker route between Seattle and Portland, Oregon, with 86 people aboard, 80 of them passengers, Amtrak said.

The derailment has placed Amtrak, the country’s main passenger rail company, under renewed scrutiny following a series of fatal incidents.

The stretch of track where the derailment happened had previously been used by slow-moving freight trains but was recently upgraded to handle passenger trains as part of a $181 million project to cut travel time between Tacoma and Olympia.

Washington state’s transportation department said the track underwent “weeks of inspection and testing” before the new route was inaugurated on Monday.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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