The train that careened off a bridge outside Tacoma, Washington, killing three people was traveling at 80 mph on a 30-mph stretch of track, federal investigators confirmed late Monday.
During a late-night briefing with reporters, NTSB board member Bella Dinh-Zarr added that Train 501 of Amtrak’s Cascades service from Seattle headed south to Portland, Oregon, was carrying 80 passengers, three crew and two service personnel.
She said it was “too early to tell” why the train was travelling at 80 mph.
“We were glad that we were able to get the data from the event data recorder from the rear locomotive,” she said at the briefing. “The front locomotive as you can imagine is a bit more difficult to access.”
The train was made up of 12 cars and two locomotives — one at the front and one at the back, Dinh-Zarr said.
Only one locomotive remained on the tracks after the crash, Washington State Patrol said. The Washington Department of Ecology is evaluating a 350 gallon fuel spill that came from the power car, police added.
Washington State Police spokesman Dan Hall earlier said that 72 people were taken to hospitals after the 7:33 a.m. PT crash following the opening of a highly touted new rail link. Five cars and a pair of trucks were involved in the highway pileup, but no motorists were killed, officials said.
It was unclear if the dead were passengers or crew. Hall said that 10 of the wounded remained in serious condition and one was medevacked to a trauma center at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, roughly 50 miles away.
In a statement, Amtrak said it was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and injuries” and working closely with victims and their families.
“There is a thorough investigation underway to determine what happened,” the statement said. “The investigation will be conducted by [the National Transportation Safety Board], and we will cooperate fully with all authorities. At this time, we will not speculate about the cause, and we encourage others not to speculate as well.”
Earlier, an Amtrak official said the train was not using a technology called positive train control, which can prevent derailments caused by excessive speed. (NBC)