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At least 3 people were killed and dozens more injured early Monday when an Amtrak train derailed while crossing an overpass south of Tacoma, Wash. Preliminary data shows the train was travelling at more than twice the speed limit just before the derailment.
Many of the injured remained in critical condition. Thirteen of the train’s cars jumped the tracks, with several dropping onto Interstate 5 below and causing heavy damage to at least five vehicles, including two tractor-trailers.
Amtrak provides daily service between Seattle and Portland. Train 501 was on its maiden trip of a new, faster route when the derailment happened between the Tacoma and Olympia rail stops just after 7:30 a.m. Monday.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident. NTSB member Bella Dinh-Zarr said preliminary data from the rear engine’s Event Data Recorder shows the train was traveling at 80 mph. A spokeswoman from Sound Transit, which owns the tracks, said trains are supposed to reduce their speed to 30 mph in the area of the accident.
Dinh-Zarr also said that preliminary information showed the train’s emergency brake went off automatically and was not activated by the train’s engineer.
According to an Associated Press article, a federal official speaking on condition of anonymity said investigators were looking into the possibility that the train’s engineer was distracted by an in-training conductor when the accident occurred.
The train did not yet have activated Positive Train Control, which can automatically slow or stop trains that are travelling too fast. After a 2008 train accident in California, lawmakers mandated that railroad companies implement PTC installation by the end of 2015. That deadline has been pushed back twice since then. Railroads now can apply for deadline extensions until 2020.
This isn’t the first time an Amtrak train accident has resulted in fatalities and widespread injuries. A 2015 Amtrak derailment in Pennsylvania killed 7 people and injured more than 200 others. An NTSB investigation concluded the accident was caused by a distracted engineer.
Just last month, the NTSB blasted Amtrak on deficient safety management in a report on the Pennsylvania accident.
“Amtrak’s safety culture is failing and is primed to fail again, until and unless Amtrak changes the way it practices safety management,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said at the time.
After Monday’s train derailment, Amtrak President and CEO said the company is committed to supporting the victims of the accident and preventing future accidents.
“We have to keep this as a wake-up call. It’s not acceptable that we are involved in these kinds of accidents. We’re terribly sorry to the people that are involved,” Anderson said.
If you were injured in a train accident, it’s important to take steps to protect your legal rights as soon as possible. The Ammons Law Firm is a trial firm devoted exclusively to representing the interests of those who are seriously injured and the loved ones of those who have been killed as a result of negligence.
Our firm has a history of success in handling complex cases that involve large-scale accidents such as the Amtrak train derailment. We use our experience, skills and resources to help victims find justice. Call us today at (866) 523-1603 to schedule a free consultation and discuss your rights.