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Amtrak train hurtles off overpass; at least 6 people killed

Published:Tuesday | December 19, 2017 | 12:00 AM
This photo provided by Washington State Patrol shows an Amtrak train that derailed south of Seattle yesterday.

DUPONT, Washington (AP):

An Amtrak train making the first-ever run along a faster new route hurtled off an overpass yesterday near Tacoma and spilt some of its cars on to the highway below, killing at least six people, authorities said.

Seventy-eight passengers and five crew members were aboard when the train, moving at more than 80mph, derailed about 40 miles (64 kilometres) south of Seattle before 8 a.m., Amtrak said.

There was no immediate word on why the train left the tracks.

The Pierce County Sheriff's Office said that several vehicles on Interstate 5 were struck by falling train cars, and multiple motorists were injured. No fatalities of motorists were reported.

Chris Karnes was on the train, three or four cars back from the front.

"I'm not sure what got hit. I'm not sure what happened," Karnes said.

Medical tents were set up in the highway median just south of DuPont.

"The only car that is on the tracks is the rear locomotive. There are several cars that are hanging over the overpass," Karnes said.

In a statement, Amtrak said that the train that derailed was Train 501, offering service from Seattle to Portland.

The train was making the inaugural run on the new route as part of a $180.7 million project designed to speed up service by removing passenger trains from a route along Puget Sound that is bogged down by curves, single-track tunnels, and freight traffic.

It left Seattle around 6 a.m., according to an Amtrak schedule, and was due in Portland about three and a half hours later.

The new route includes a bypass built on an existing inland rail line that runs along Interstate 5 from Tacoma to DuPont, near where Train 501 derailed. Track testing was completed in January and February in advance of Monday's launch, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.