DUPONT, WASHINGTON (December 27, 2017) – New information has been released about a tragic derailment in Washington State that killed three people and injured dozens more, according to a local news source. (map)
The accident happened early in the morning on December 18th. Amtrak train 501 had just left DuPont, Washington as part of the inaugural voyage of a new track designed to shave time off of trains running from Seattle to Portland. The new stretch of track actually wasn’t new… it was a freight train track that had been overhauled to be able to handle high speed trains as part of a $180 million project.
The train approached a slight curve in the track leading up to an overpass that spanned Interstate 5 at a much higher rate of speed than the curve was rated for… over double it, in fact. The train, traveling at 80 mph as it approached the 30 mph rated curve, began to derail. A locomotive and two cars plummeted down onto Interstate 5, several cars dangled precariously over the southbound lanes, and several cars slid into nearby woods.
Three people were killed in the accident, and dozens more were injured. Motorists down below on the interstate were struck by falling debris and train cars, leaving several injured there as well. The accident, one of the worst in recent rail history, immediately drew media attention worldwide.
Initial investigations indicated that the train had not engaged it’s emergency braking system prior to the derailment. Investigations also revealed that the particular section of tracks involved in the accident did not have Positive Train Control installed, which is an automatic system that could have prevented the derailment by detecting and automatically slowing the train as it approached the curve at high speeds.
An initial report by the NTSB indicated that approximately 6 seconds before the accident, an engineer made a comment about the train traveling at a high speed. It also seemed to indicate that the engineer may have applied the brakes, but not the emergency brake. It is unknown why the engineers allowed the train to approach the curve at the high rate of speed without slowing the train down.
An article by the Seattle Times reported that Amtrak crew members had apparently demonstrated worries about the training on the new route. It is unknown whether those worries included fear of a derailment or a lack of proper training.
This was not Amtrak’s first recent mass casualty derailment. In 2015, a passenger train in Philadelphia derailed, killing 8 people and injuring over 200. The cause of that crash? A train going through a curve at twice the intended speed, in an eerily similar fashion to 2017’s accident.
There are certainly many lawsuits in Amtrak’s future. What some people might not know is that Amtrak’s liability is capped at $295 million… and while that might sound like a lot of money, it’s not when you take into account how many people sustained injuries, lost loved ones, or experienced massive property damages. It’s important to speak to an attorney quickly regarding your options if you, or a loved one was involved in this tragic accident. Lexton Law has knowledge of assisting victims with train related incidents.
“Sadly, there are no words that can comfort all family members and friends affected by this tragic accident,” said the attorneys from Lexton Law. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all those involved.”