Amtrak train was traveling at 80 mph in 30 mph zone
The data recorder in the rear locomotive provided information about the train’s speed, NTSB board member Bella Dinh-Zarr said during a press conference. “It’s too early to tell” why the Amtrak 501 train was travelling so fast or why it derailed on its inaugural ride, Dinh-Zarr added.
The train engineer was supposed to slow down when approaching the curve where the train was crossing the interstate, the Seattle Times reported, citing state transportation department spokeswoman Barbara LaBoe.
The speed limit signs are placed ahead of the zone, one two miles ahead and another just before the curve. “Engineers are trained to slow trains according to posted speeds,” she said.
At the time of the crash the technology, called positive train control, wasn’t activated, Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson said. The system can automatically slow down and stop a train to prevent an accident, with GPS tracking the train’s location and activating the brakes if the speed is excessive.
“There is a thorough investigation underway to determine what happened,” the Amtrak statement read, going on to discourage speculation into the accident’s causes.
The wreck took place south of Seattle during the 501 train’s maiden trip along a new link between the cities of Tacoma and Olympia. 13 of 14 cars left the tracks, several of which fell onto the busy interstate. Amtrak said there were 86 people on board, including 80 passengers.
Three people died in the accident, state officials confirmed. 72 people were taken to hospital, ten of whom were in a serious condition. Five vehicles and two semi-trailer trucks collided with the train cars.