(SL) – Just minutes after passengers were tweeting how fast the train was traveling as they were heading over I-5, disaster struck.
Passenger Chris Karnes described what happened to KIRO 7. “All of a sudden, we felt this rocking and creaking noise, and it felt like we were heading down a hill. 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”. Karnes also says that when emergency doors weren’t working people started kicking out windows and panic ensued.
On an audio recording of the incident, a member of the train’s crew told an emergency dispatcher that the train came around a corner before the bridge and then we went on the ground. After the dispatcher asked whether everyone was OK, the crew member replied, “I am still figuring that out. We got cars everywhere and down onto the highway.” The dispatcher also asked for the driver’s location, and he responded, “As soon as I know exactly where all of my train is, I’ll let you know.”
Reportedly, 77 passengers were on the train as it embarked on its first journey along a newly-opened section of track. The train derailed on an overpass in Washington state, killing multiple passengers and spilling over I-5.The Independent reports, thirteen of the 14 cars that made up the train left the track. More than 70 people were transported to local hospitals for treatment, including four “level red” patients with the most severe injuries. At least another nine were in “serious but stable” condition.
“When we got to the scene it was obvious that there were some fatalities and there were a lot of injuries, and some people were able to get off the train,” Pierce County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Ed Troyer told reporters. Other reports have the death toll between 3 and 6. The confirmed number could rise given the volume of critically injured victims.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the federal agency responsible for investigating major transit incidents, said a “go team” of investigators had been dispatched. In a press briefing, NTSB member T Bella Dinh-Zarr said “we are aware of the fact that this was called an inaugural run of this service”. She added that said a team of 20 investigators will be at the scene on Monday evening, but at the moment it was too early to say if the crash was due to high speed.
An Amtrak representative declined to answer questions about whether the train may have been travelling too fast, deferring to the NTSB investigation.
“Anything beyond that right now until their findings are out is pure speculation,” Gay Banks Olson said.