Train was going 80km/h too fast when it derailed

A TRAIN was travelling 80km/h over the speed limit when it derailed from an overpass south of Seattle and crashed onto the freeway below, killing at least three passengers and injuring more than 100.

Bella Dinh-Zarr, of the National Transportation Safety Board, confirmed on Monday night that the train was hurtling at 80 miles per hour (128km/h) in a 30 (48km/h) zone when it spilled off the tracks Monday morning, according to a data recorder in the rear locomotive.

However, Ms Dinh-Zarr said was "too early to tell" exactly why the train derailed and why it was moving so fast.
 

Cars from an Amtrak train that derailed spilled onto Interstate 5 on Monday. Picture: Peter Haley/The News Tribune via AP
Cars from an Amtrak train that derailed spilled onto Interstate 5 on Monday. Picture: Peter Haley/The News Tribune via AP


Meanwhile, passengers have revealed the terror they felt as the train derailed.

Charlie and Beverly Heebener, aged 79 and 78 respectively, were both excited to be on board given it was the maiden ride for the Portland-to-Seattle service.

Their excitement soon turned to horror.

"It was like being inside an exploding bomb," Mr Heebener told Seattle news station KOMO.

Mrs Heebener saw a body lying inert as she and her husband crawled out of their mangled train car.

"I mean he hardly had any clothes on; the clothes had just been ripped off of him," she said. "And he was obviously
dead."

Mr Heebener added: "I think, man, we were lucky to be getting out of here alive. Then I decided we're just fortunate, not lucky. I don't think luck had anything to do with it."

Another passenger, Emma Shafer, found herself at a 45-degree angle staring at the seats in front of her that had dislodged and swung around.

"It felt oddly silent after the actual crashing," she told the Associated Press.

"Then there was people screaming because their leg was messed up … I don't know if I actually heard the sirens, but they were there. A guy was like, 'Hey, I'm Robert. We'll get you out of here'."
 

The train was carrying 80 passengers and five crew. Picture: AFP/Kathryn Elsesser
The train was carrying 80 passengers and five crew. Picture: AFP/Kathryn Elsesser


Investigators have also discovered that the train's Positive Train Control - which automatically slows down a speeding train - was installed but not activated at the time of the derailment.

Authorities said there were 80 passengers and five crew members on board when it derailed and pulled 13 cars off the tracks.

In a radio transmission immediately after the accident, the conductor can be heard saying the train was coming around a corner and was crossing a bridge that passed over Interstate 5 when it derailed.
 

Emergency services worked into the night to remove the wreckage. Picture Stephen Brashear/Getty Images/AFP
Emergency services worked into the night to remove the wreckage. Picture Stephen Brashear/Getty Images/AFP

 

Dispatch audio also indicated that the train driver survived with bleeding from the head and both eyes swollen shut. The driver is yet to be interviewed.

The train was making its first run on the new route as part of a $US180.7 million project designed to speed up service by removing passenger trains from a route along Puget Sound that is bogged down by curves, single-track tunnels and freight traffic.

The new bypass was built on an existing inland rail line that runs along Interstate 5 from Tacoma to DuPont.



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