Amtrak train was traveling faster than speed limit when it derailed
The Amtrak Cascades 501 train that derailed Monday morning near DuPont, Washington, probably was traveling more than 50 miles per hour over the posted speed limit for that stretch of track at the time of the derailment.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that National Transportation Safety Board officials said the train may have been traveling 80 mph heading into a curve near Mounts Road, where the posted train speed limit was 30 mph.
OPB reported that the maximum speed limit for some of the train's route reached up to 79 miles per hour, according to Kimberly Reason, a spokeswoman with Sound Transit, which owns that stretch of track south of Seattle.
In Oregon, Cascades trains travel just as fast as trains in Washington, about 79 mph (the federal speed limit in most states). State transportation officials responsible for rail safety will likely stick to their regular schedule of safety inspections and reviews after the derailment, according to an ODOT spokeswoman.
Shelley M. Snow with ODOT public affairs said Tuesday that the agency had a "regular, ongoing schedule of reviewing tracks, cabs, signals, etc., and that will continue."
Snow said ODOT Rail Safety Manager John Johnson was in DuPont assisting teams investigating the derailment.
"Like everyone, we're anxious to get the final results of the (National Transportation Safety Board) investigation so we can work with everyone involved to make sure this kind of thing never happens again," Snow said.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he would wait for the conclusion of a federal investigation before tackling infrastructure improvements with the Washington Legislature. He said the state would push for safety measures "so this doesn't happen again."
Rail enthusiasts among the victims
Three were killed and dozens of others were injured when the passenger train derailed and blocked Interstate 5's southbound lanes.
Washington State Patrol officials told national media outlets that three people were confirmed dead after what the Washington Department of Transportation called a "tragic derailment" of an Amtrak Cascades southbound train. Amtrak said the train carried 78 passengers and five crew members.
No official casualty figures have been released. Early reports said six people died and more than four dozen injured. State patrol reported that about 100 people were taken to local hospitals for treatment of injuries suffered in the derailment.
Two victims of Monday's derailment were rail enthusiasts. Zack Willhoite, 35, was an IT customer service specialist with Pierce Transit. Jim Hamre, 61, was a former WSDOT employee who was a board member for the Rail Passengers Association and vice president of All Aboard Washington.
Their names were released Tuesday, Dec. 19.
Officials with Pierce Transit and the Rail Passengers Association said Tuesday they were "deeply saddened" by the deaths. Willhoite had been with Pierce Transit since 2008. "He has always been deeply appreciated and admired by his colleagues, and played an important role at our agency," according to an agency statement. "He will be sincerely missed."
According to the Rail Passengers Association, "both men were devoted to their family and friends, as well as passionate advocates for passenger railroad and advancing the advocacy work of RPA."
"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," said association President Jim Mathews.
The third victim was identified as 40-year-old Benjamin Gran of Auburn, Washington. His name was released Wednesday, Dec. 20.
OHSU doctor on the scene
The southbound passenger train derailed at about 7:30 a.m. Dec. 18, as it passed over I-5 near Mounts Road, spilling cars onto the highway. Washington State Patrol officials said 13 of the train's 14 cars derailed, hitting five vehicles and two semi-trucks on the highway below the rail line.
Oregon Health and Science University neurosurgeon Dr. Nathan Selden, who was traveling to Seattle with his son, was about a mile from the derailment and went to the crash site to help victims.
Selden is OHSU's Campagna Professor and chairman of neurological surgery. He told KOIN News 6 that he worked out of a medical triage tent set up in the highway median and saw many people who had serious wounds, including fractures and lacerations.
Selden said several people pitched in to help, carrying boxes from fire trucks to medical tents. "Everybody there was doing what they could in a really spectacular way," Selden told KOIN 6 News.
The American Red Cross in Oregon and Southwest Washington sent mental health responders and volunteers Monday at Portland's Union Station to provide information and support to families affected by the derailment.
Bloodworks, a nonprofit agency in Seattle, said called for people to donate blood to help victims of the derailment.
Bloodworks officials said in a statement that the group has provided more than 150 units of blood to several Puget Sound hospitals treating more than 70 people injured in the derailment. The group said supplies for some blood types were at critical levels, with a one- or two-day supply.
The group that was formerly Puget Sound Blood Center, appealed for O-type blood, AB plasma and platelets to help in treatment.
Donation appointments can be made online at www.bloodworksnw.org or by calling 1-800-398-7888.
The derailment canceled some trains and forced others to reschedule as lines of passengers formed in Union Station.
Washington's Department of Transportation said Dec. 18 that officials were working with state, local and federal agencies on the emergency response and on the investigation that will follow. The National Transportation Safety Board will oversee the crash probe.
Amtrak operates the Cascades train service which is jointly owned by WSDOT and Oregon's Department of Transportation. The service runs trains from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Eugene.
The train was making the first run on Sound Transit's Point Defiance Bypass, which included a section of the route that parallels Interstate 5. Monday was first day of public use for the tracks, "after weeks of inspection and testing," WSDOT officials said in a statement.
For live streaming of the crash, go to koin.com/koin-video-extras/