PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — At least 6 people were killed on Monday in what was described as a “catastrophic derailment,” of an Amtrak train from Seattle to Portland.
The Associated Press reported that a U.S official confirmed the number and said the death toll was expected to rise. There were 78 passengers and five crew members on board.
It’s unclear how many passengers were injured.
The official who was briefed on the investigation also says preliminary signs indicate the Amtrak train may have struck something on the track before going off the track.
The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The high-speed train was making its first run on newly constructed tracks when it derailed before 8 a.m. Monday.
The official said because the tracks were new it was unlikely to be a maintenance issue.
All southbound lanes of I-5 are blocked near Mounts Road in Pierce County and will remain closed for quite some time, officials said. That will delay traffic all along I-5 into Oregon.
“It looks like this is a catastrophic derailment,” said Ron Pate, the Cascades Rail Corridor Director for WSDOT. “Right now we’re on a fact-finding mission.”
Amtrak Cascades debuted a new route from Seattle-Portland that takes trains on an inland corridor parallel to Interstate 5 through Tacoma, Lakewood, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and DuPont.
Train cars fell from the tracks and hit motorists below. Motorists were injured but not killed. An official on the scene said the fatalities are “all contained to the train.”
Amtrak said people with questions about their friends and family on Train 501 should call 800.523.9101.
The National Transportation Safety Board said they are “launching a go-team to investigate the Amtrak passenger train derailment in the State of Washington. Team will depart DC today. Additional information to follow when available.”
Transitdocs.com, a website that maps Amtrak train locations and speeds using data from the railroad’s train tracker app, says Train 501 was going 81.1 mph moments before the derailment Monday.
The state Department of Transportation posted information about the $180.7 million project online that says the maximum speed along that stretch of track is 79 mph.
The new route was designed to speed up service by removing passenger trains from a route along Puget Sound that’s bogged down by curves, single-track tunnels and freight traffic.
The mayor of Lakewood, Washington, a city along the route, predicted a deadly crash. But Don Anderson thought it’d involve a fast-moving train hitting a car or pedestrian at a crossing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.