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Feds: Amtrak train was speeding 50 mph over speed limit prior to fatal derailment

December 19, 2017  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
Feds: Amtrak train was speeding 50 mph over speed limit prior to fatal derailment

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DUPONT, Wash. — Federal officials confirmed an Amtrak train was hurtling 50 mph over the speed limit when it careened off an overpass south of Seattle, spilling cars onto the highway below and killing at least three people.

Bella Dinh-Zarr, a National Transportation Safety Board member, said at a Monday night news conference that information from the event data recorder in the rear locomotive showed the train was traveling at 80 mph in a 30 mph zone when it derailed at 7:34 a.m. Mangled train cars ended up on top of each other – and one hung precariously over the freeway.

When the clanging of metal and screeching stopped at first it was quiet. Then came the screams.

After the crash, the injured called out as rescuers — including people who had been in cars on their morning freeway commute — rushed to help. One of the train passengers was Emma Shafer, who found herself at a 45-degree angle staring at the seats in front of her that had dislodged and swung around.

“It felt oddly silent after the actual crashing,” Shafer said. “Then there was people screaming because their leg was messed up … I don’t know if I actually heard the sirens, but they were there. A guy was like, ‘Hey, I’m Robert. We’ll get you out of here.’”

Dinh-Zarr said it’s not yet known what caused the train to derail and that “it’s too early to tell” why it was going so fast.

Positive train control — the technology that can slow or stop a speeding train — wasn’t in use on this stretch of track, according to Amtrak President Richard Anderson.

In 2015, an Amtrak train in Philadelphia was traveling at twice the 50 mph speed limit as it entered a sharp curve and derailed. Eight people were killed and more than 200 were injured when the locomotive and four of the train’s seven passenger cars jumped the tracks. Several cars overturned and ripped apart.

A track chart prepared by the Washington State Department of Transportation shows the maximum speed drops from 79 mph (127 kph) to 30 mph (48 kph) for passenger trains just before the tracks curve to cross Interstate 5, which is where the train went off the tracks.

The chart, dated Feb. 7, was submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration in anticipation of the start of passenger service along a new bypass route that shaves off 10 minutes for the trip between Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

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