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Amtrak train was 50 mph over speed limit before crash

Federal transportation safety officials say an Amtrak train was traveling about 80 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone before it derailed near DuPont.
Amtrak Cascades Train 501 derailed and cars crashed onto Intersate 5 near DuPont, Wash., Dec. 18, 2017. (Credit: KING)

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The latest:

- Train that derailed was traveling at 80 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone, according to NTSB

- Three of the 85 people on the train were killed. Dozens were taken to area hospitals.

A high-speed Amtrak train that derailed near DuPont on Monday, killing three people and sending dozens to the hospital, was traveling 50 mph faster than it should have been at the spot where it derailed, according to federal transportation safety officials.

The National Transportation Safety Board's investigator in charge received a download of the event data recorder on the rear locomotor that indicated the train was traveling at about 80 mph in a 30 mph zone.

Investigators obtained the recorder and cameras from the front locomotor and will compare data to make sure it matches.

Positive train control — technology that could have slowed or stopped the train automatically— wasn't in use on this stretch of track, according to NTSB.

Investigators also learned the emergency braking system automatically kicked in when the train started to derail. It was not pulled by a crew member.

WSDOT reopened all lanes of Southbound Interstate 5 on Wednesday night after removing all train cars from the scene.

Crews made minor repairs to a guardrail before the lanes reopened. However, there was no damage to concrete on the roadway.

As of late Tuesday morning, there was at least one person in critical condition and at least 17 people in serious condition at local hospitals -- some of them in ICU. In addition, St. Joseph's Medical Center in Tacoma said it had two "red" and two "yellow" patients.

Nineteen people were taken to a reunification site after the crash.

The on-site NTSB investigation will take seven to 10 days. The NTSB will collect factual information at the scene and then will analyze the facts to determine a probable cause of the derailment and make recommendations.

“Our mission is not to just understand what happened but why it happened so we can recommend changes,” said NTSB spokesperson Bella Dinh-Zarr.

Governor Jay Inslee reiterated Tuesday that his priorities are compassion for those affected, restoring confidence in the state's rail service and learning what happened, and getting Interstate 5 reopened.

"We have confidence that we will find out what happened in this horrific event and we will fix anything that went wrong to make sure that in the future rail safety is assured for everyone," Inslee said.

Amtrak Cascades train 501 was headed southbound when it derailed at 7:33 a.m. It included 12 cars plus two engines. Thirteen of those 14 cars jumped the tracks. One of the cars landed upside down on Interstate 5.

There were about 80 passengers and five crew members on board.

Multiple motorists on the ground were injured, but none were killed, according to the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.

About 250 gallons of diesel spilled in the crash. The Department of Ecology was on-site to evaluate the spill and determined it was contained to the soil. No diesel got into waterways.

Anyone with questions about their friends and family on train 501 should call 800-523-9101.

Amtrak said they will follow through on NTSB recommendations following the crash and will do its best to make reparations to the community.

“We have to keep this as a wakeup call," said Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson. It's not acceptable that we are involved in these types of accidents.”

Anderson also said the company would continue to "improve and evolve the safety culture at Amtrak."

This was the first day for the Amtrak Cascades high-speed train on its new route with trains further inland parallel to Interstate 5 through Tacoma, Lakewood, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The new route, which is part of a $180.7 million project, 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 new route was expected to save 10 minutes from the old route.

The mayor of Lakewood predicted a deadly crash. But Don Anderson thought it'd involve a fast-moving train hitting a car or pedestrian at a crossing.

President Donald Trump tweeted about three hours after the crash that this was an example of why his infrastructure plan should be passed.

He followed that up minutes later with tweet sending his condolences and thanking first responders.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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