Several passengers were killed Monday morning when an Amtrak train drove off an interstate overpass in Washington state. Emergency response teams were at the scene, and photos of the derailment show train cars hanging off an Interstate 5 overpass and falling into traffic. Details about the tragic accident are still emerging, but what's happening in Washington state after the Amtrak derailment will effect multiple forms of transportation in the Tacoma area.
The derailed train, Amtrak 501, was part of a new service connecting Portland and Seattle. Amtrak described the incident in a statement:
Emergency crews are on the scene and the Amtrak Management is responding. Some injuries are reported. Service between Seattle and Portland is suspended for the time being.
About 78 passengers and five crew members were on board at the time of the crash, according to Amtrak.
Multiple vehicles were struck when the train went off the overpass, but the casualties were "contained to the train," a Pierce County Sheriff's Office spokesman told CNN. An exact number of deaths and injuries is still unknown, but more than 70 people were reportedly taken to nearby hospitals; the Associated Press reported at least six people had died.
The crash happened just south of Mounts Road on Interstate 5, and clearing the train off the road will take time. Washington State Department of Transportation warned drivers to avoid the area Monday morning and expect travel delays near DuPont as Interstate 5 will remain closed "for an extended period of time." The WSDOT said via Twitter all southbound lanes at Mounts Road will be shut down for the rest of the day, and advised locals to follow the WSDOT Tacoma Twitter account for updates.
About 60,000 people use the affected area of the southbound I-5 every day, and the Tacoma WSDOT doesn't know when it will reopen. Because of the closure, the agency also advised drivers to expect major delays on alternative routes Monday and asked everyone to drive carefully, as "new wrecks will make a bad situation worse."
A crash in the I-5 express lane created further travel delays Monday morning, and the WSDOT asked drivers traveling into Seattle from the south to stay on the mainline as the express lane was closed.
Amtrak Cascades Trains 504 and 509 were cancelled with no alternate transportation offered by Amtrak, though north- and eastbound service from Seattle continued Monday morning. Those seeking information about individual passengers on the derailed Amtrak 501 have been instructed to contact Amtrak at (800)-523-9101. To stay up-to-date on train closures and delays, follow Amtrak's Twitter account.
Monday was the first day of the Amtrak Cascades daily roundtrip trains between Seattle and Portland, and a total of 12 trains were supposed to run every day, according to the WSDOT's website. The change was meant to reduce travel times between the cities by 10 minutes after $800 million in federal grants went toward updating tracks and signal systems and creating the new schedule.
In response to the crash, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency for Pierce and Thurston counties, offering state resources to assist in response and recovery efforts. His proclamation said the derailment caused "significant structural damage" to the overpass, railway, and highway.
The effects of the derailment and related rail and highway closures impact the life and health of the people as well as the property and infrastructure of Washington State, all of which is a public disaster that affects life, health, property, or the public peace.
Gov. Inslee said in a statement that he will be monitoring the situation and recommended people in the area mark themselves safe on Facebook.
"Today's tragic incident in Pierce County is a serious and ongoing emergency," he tweeted. "Trudi and I are holding in our hearts everyone on board, and are praying for the many injured."