Multiple people were killed Monday morning when Amtrak Cascades Train 501 derailed southwest of Tacoma, Wash., and sent rail cars off a bridge onto the highway below.

The cause of the derailment was unclear, but the train was entering a curve as it made its way south from Seattle to Portland, Ore. Though the train had been tested on the track, which is owned by Seattle’s Sound Transit system, Monday’s run was the first time it made the trip with a full load of 78 passengers and their baggage.

Seattle

WASHINGTON

Olympia

Detail

OREGON

7:17 a.m.

Amtrak Cascades Train 501 arrives 32 minutes late at Tacoma station.

5 MILES

Tacoma

WASHINGTON

DuPont

Olympia

7:34 a.m.

Shortly before the crash, records show the train at a speed of 81 mph as it nears an area where the speed limit is 30 mph.

Tacoma

WASHINGTON

DuPont

Olympia

Around 7:40 a.m.

The train derails off an overpass crossing Interstate 5.

Tacoma

WASHINGTON

DuPont

Olympia

Previous

train

route

Seattle

WASHINGTON

Tacoma

Olympia

2km

2km

Detail

7:17 a.m.

Amtrak Cascades Train 501 arrives 32 minutes late at Tacoma station.

OREGON

DuPont

WASHINGTON

7:34 a.m.

Shortly before the crash, records show the train at a speed of 81 mph as it nears an area where the speed limit is 30 mph.

5

Olympia

Around 7:40 a.m.

The train derails off an overpass crossing Interstate 5.

2km

2km

5 MILES

5

Seattle

WASHINGTON

Tacoma

7:17 a.m.

Olympia

Detail

Amtrak Cascades Train 501 arrives 32 minutes late at Tacoma station.

OREGON

DuPont

WASHINGTON

7:34 a.m.

Shortly before the crash, records show the train at a speed of 81 mph as it nears an area where the speed limit is 30 mph.

5

Around 7:40 a.m.

Olympia

The train derails off an overpass crossing Interstate 5.

5 MILES

5

Seattle

WASHINGTON

Olympia

Detail

Tacoma

OREGON

7:17 a.m.

Amtrak Cascades Train 501 arrives 32 minutes late at Tacoma station.

Previous

train

route

5

WASHINGTON

DuPont

Joint Base

Lewis-McChord

7:34 a.m.

Shortly before the crash, records show the train at a speed of 81 mph as it nears an area where the speed limit is 30 mph.

5

Around 7:40 a.m.

The train derails off an overpass crossing Interstate 5.

Olympia

5 MILES

5

Investigators said that they will assess what crash avoidance technology existed on the tracks or on the train. Amtrak trains are equipped with positive train control (PTC), a system that slows or stops a train if a dangerous situation is detected. However, sensors required along the rail bed are not scheduled to be in place until sometime next year according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Trains are monitored by GPS, as well as sensors along the tracks and at stations. Data is sent to an onboard system.

If danger is detected, the engineer receives a warning.

If the engineer fails to apply breaks, the PTC system can take over and automatically apply them.

Train’s

brakes

engaged

Trains are monitored by GPS, as well as sensors along the tracks and at stations.

Data is sent to an onboard system.

If danger is detected, the engineer receives a warning.

If the engineer fails to apply breaks, the PTC system can take over and automatically apply them.

Train’s

brakes

engaged

Trains are monitored by GPS, as well as sensors along the tracks and at stations.

Data is sent to an onboard system.

If danger is detected, the engineer receives a warning.

If the engineer fails to apply breaks, the PTC system can take over and automatically apply them.

Train’s

brakes

engaged

Trains are monitored by GPS, as well as sensors along the tracks and at stations.

Data is sent to an onboard system.

If danger is detected, the engineer receives a warning.

If the engineer fails to apply breaks, the PTC system can take over and automatically apply them.

Train’s

brakes

engaged

The accident occured as the train crossed over Interstate 5. More than 60,000 vehicles a day use that area of southbound I-5, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Photos from the scene showed one rail car dangling over the side of the bridge and another upside-down on the roadway below.

(Washington State Patrol/AP)

(KOMO-TV/AP)

The train was part of a new service on Amtrak’s Cascades line, meant to cut the travel time between Seattle and Portland.

Passenger trains on the Cascades corridor typically max out at a speed of 79 mph, but on the straight stretch of track approaching the curve, the train hit speeds of 81 mph. It is not known whether speed played a factor in the crash.

Part of the train fell onto Interstate 5 near the

derailment.

81 mph

81 mph

Part of the train fell onto Interstate 5 near the derailment

81 mph

81 mph

Part of the train fell onto Interstate 5 near the derailment

Aaron Steckelberg, Denise Lu, Laris Karklis, Armand Emamdjomeh and Tim Meko contributed to this report.

About this story

Mapping data from Maps4News/HERE. Train locations and speed information from asm.transitdocs.com. Satellite imagery from Google Earth.

Originally published Dec. 18, 2017.

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