Early morning incident sends 77 people to hospital
The accident occurred Monday morning on a highway overpass near Dupont, Wash.
Ed Troyer, spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said there were “multiple fatalities” but couldn’t provide a precise number. He said the fatalities were contained to the train cars itself, but several motorists whose cars were hit by the falling train car were injured.
CNN reports that about 77 people were transported to hospitals in Pierce and Thurston counties. Four of them suffered serious injuries, according to Cary Evans, spokesman for CHI Franciscan Health.
The passenger train was on its inaugural trip on a new service route, one week before Christmas. The incident took place at 7:40 a.m. near the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Dupont, about 20 miles south of Tacoma.
Patient transportation is being coordinated from the command center at St. Joseph Medical Center and the Pierce County Disaster Management Command Center, CNN said.
“We had just passed the city of DuPont and it seemed like we were going around a curve,” passenger Chris Karnes told CBS News. “And all of a sudden, we felt this rocking and creaking noise, and then all of a sudden it felt like we were heading down a hill, and the next thing that we know, we’re being slammed into the front of our seats, and the windows are breaking, and then we stop, and there’s water that’s gushing out of the top of the train and all the lights go out and people are screaming.”
The cause of the derailment remains under investigation. An NTSB team will be sent from Washington, D.C., to investigate the incident. According to ABC News, the track where the accident occurred had carried freight trains before but was recently upgraded to carry passengers. In a press release last week, Amtrak said that using the new route would allow for two more daily round-trips between Seattle and Portland and help trains avoid traveling around tight corners and tunnels.
Washington state’s Department of Transportation said “today was the first day of public use of the tracks after weeks of inspection and testing,” ABC reported.
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