Officials investigating the derailment of an Amtrak train in Washington state say the vehicle was traveling at over twice the allowed speed limit.
According to National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) spokeswoman T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, the train derailed near DuPoint while going 80 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone.
“Our mission is not just to understand what happened but why it happened so we can recommend changes,” she said.
Investigators arrived to the scene of the crash Monday. Three people were killed following the derailment, while more than 100 were injured. Specialists will dedicate the entire day Tuesday to sorting through the wreckage and compiling a picture of just what went wrong.
Shortly after news of the accident broke, Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency.
“No one knows what happened in this incident. I’ve had some preliminary information, but there’s no conclusions that anyone can reach, at all, about any source. So we as humans always want to have those answers. You can be assured we’re going to get those answers,” said Inslee.
The Amtrak Cascades 501 was on its maiden voyage, transiting a new service route between Seattle and Portland.
While crossing atop an interstate overpass, the train derailed. Most of its carriages disconnected from the tracks, while several cars tumbled into rush-hour traffic on the highway below.
All of the deaths, says Pierce County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Ed Troyer, were confined to the train and its passengers – somehow, nobody on the highway was seriously injured.
The train had been rolling down the railway for less than two hours before the tragedy.
Embarking at 6 o’clock in the morning Monday, Amtrak Cascades 501 made two stops before derailing near DuPoint. It flew off the tracks at 7:40am, twenty miles north of Tacoma.
“Apparently, the train came out of a curve and ran off the track while crossing or approaching an open trestle over I-5,” reports CNN. “The following rail cars derailed in a jumble on both sides of the track, with some falling to the road below and landing on vehicles and one rail car dangling precariously over the highway.”
While there weren’t any official conjectures on the train’s speed preceding the NTSB’s Monday announcement, CNN and other media outlets supposed it must have been traveling around 80 miles per hour.
Witnesses to the crash say Cascades 501 seemed to be going at the same speed of traffic and didn’t noticeably slow before entering a curve.
Daniel Konzelmen, speaking to CNN, said he was driving on Interstate 5 and that the train and his car were “kind of parallel” and “it was going faster than us.”