An Amtrak passenger train that derailed Monday morning, killing at least three people, was making its inaugural run on a new route in Washington state that one local mayor had warned was dangerous.
Earlier, an official who was briefed on the investigation had said six people had died.
Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson had raised safety concerns over the new itinerary, even predicting earlier this month that the new faster route would lead to fatal accidents.
The Amtrak “Cascades” Train 501, which operates between Seattle and Portland, derailed and fell off a bridge over Interstate 5 south of Tacoma near Olympia. Photos of the incident show a train car dangling from the track over Interstate 5. Another train car had fallen onto the highway. Motorists were injured, but not killed during the incident, The Seattle Times reported. The fatalities were confined to people on the train.
There were 78 passengers and five crew members on board, Amtrak said in a statement. Amtrak Cascades Trains 504 and 509 are cancelled. No alternate transportation will be available, Amtrak said.
The incident, which occurred just before 8 a.m. PT Monday, is under investigation. A National Transportation Safety Board official said during a news conference that it’s too soon to say what caused the crash and whether speed was a factor. The train was running the new Point Defiance Bypass route created to avoid slow curves and single track tunnels, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. The $181 million project, which began in 2010, aimed to help the trains avoid congested, slow routes.
The city of Lakewood sued WSDOT in 2013 in an effort to stop the project, arguing that it had not undergone environmental review. The case was dismissed in 2014. Anderson told The Seattle Times the city’s main concern was the number of at-grade railroad crossings on the new route and that officials thought a train-vehicle collision was inevitable.
The fatal derailment did not occur in Lakewood or at one of these crossings.
Amtrak said individuals with questions about their friends and family on this train should call (800) 523-9101.
This post has been updated.