Amtrak wreck near Olympia kills 3, injures 100

An Amtrak train derailed and plunged off an overpass onto the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 north of Olympia during the Monday morning commute, killing 3 people and injuring dozens more.

Amtrak said 77 passengers, 6 crew members, and a technician were aboard the train, which was inaugurating a new high-speed service between Portland and Seattle, using a shorter route along the I-5 corridor than the traditional Puget Sound route.

All but the lead locomotive of the 2-engine, 12-car train left the tracks. Falling train cars struck two semi trucks and five passenger vehicles, causing injuries but no fatalities to the vehicle occupants. Commuters left their vehicles and provided aid and comfort to victims while waiting for emergency responders to arrive.

Speed appears to have been a factor in the accident. A train-tracking website reported the train was going 81 mph approaching a 30 mph curve, and witnesses said the train went fast through the curve. Initial media reports also suggested the train may have hit an obstruction on the track. An NTSB team was enroute from Washington D.C. to the accident site.

This section of track, originally built by the Great Northern Railway over a century ago, was recently acquired by Sound Transit from BNSF and upgraded for passenger use. The upgrades included Positive Train Control, a system that automatically slows trains when speed is excessive, but it’s not operational yet. The train is jointly owned by the Oregon and Washington state transportation departments. Amtrak operates it.

Northbound freeway lanes were reopened to traffic Monday afternoon, and southbound lanes are expected to reopen sometime Tuesday. Until then, travelers can find detour information here. Alaska Airlines is offering reduced fares on its Portland-Seattle flights through Tuesday.





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