Investigators have confirmed that Amtrak Train 501 was traveling at twice the posted speed limit when it careened off a bridge near Tacoma, Washington Monday morning, killing three and injuring more than 70 others.
The Seattle Times reports that the train was on an inaugural trip along the new route which was meant to shave about 10 minutes off the trip from Seattle to Portland. The tracks are owned by Sound Transit and were recently upgraded under an agreement with the Washington State Department of Transportation.
Two of the deceased have been identified as Zack Willhoite and Jim Hamre. Both were longtime rail advocates.
Preliminary evidence indicates the train was traveling at 80 mph when it derailed, well above the speed limit of 30 mph, and that the emergency brakes were not engaged prior to the crash. The engineer aboard the train had been on the stretch of track before.
Federal investigators have not yet interviewed the train’s engineers or crew members, all of whom were hospitalized. It is likely their testimony will provide invaluable insight on the events leading up to the fatal derailment.
Officials will also be working to figure out why the train was traveling at such a rapid speed when it derailed. It appears that an engineer and a new conductor were in the cab at the time of the crash. A second conductor was in a train car interacting with passengers.
Investigators will likely also examine track as well as operation and mechanics of the train for possible defects.