CHICAGO (CBS) — Federal investigators have confirmed an Amtrak train was traveling at more than double the speed limit when it derailed near Tacoma, Washington, on Monday, sending rail cars onto a freeway below, killing at least three people.
The National Transportation Safety Board said information from the event data recorder in the train’s rear locomotive showed the train was going 80 mph in a 30 mph zone when it derailed Monday morning.
Thirteen of the 14 cars from the train jumped the track in DuPont, Washington. Several cars fell off an overpass, landing on Interstate 5 below, including one car that ended up on its roof. Others were left dangling from the bridge, and it appeared some knocked down trees in a wooded area alongside the highway.
“The train just started to, seemed like, go off on its side and then all of the sudden it went dark and stuff started flying around,” said passenger Anthony Raimondi.
Although the derailed train struck several cars on the interstate, no one in any of the vehicles was injured. At least three people on the train were killed.
Investigators have not determined why the train from Seattle to Portland, Oregon, was moving so fast. Amtrak officials have said positive train control – systems that can slow or stop speeding trains – was not in use on that stretch of track.
The NTSB has not completed its interview of the conductor and other crew members on board to determine whether human error might have been to blame.
Monday was the first day of faster service on the Seattle-to-Portland route. The new route was designed to speed up service by removing passenger trains from a route along Puget Sound that’s bogged down by curves, single-track tunnels and freight traffic.
Local authorities had warned the new high-speed service could be dangerous.
“This project was never needed and endangers our citizens,” Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson said earlier this month.
The tracks involved in the crash recently had been upgraded, though; so local officials weren’t concerned about derailment, but rather bringing a faster-moving train so close to pedestrians and cars.
More than 70 people injured in the derailment went to hospitals. At least 10 of them were in critical condition.