Amtrak Washington train crash: Investigators focus on speed

 In U.S.
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Media captionFootage shows the scale of the derailment

A US passenger train that derailed, killing three people, was travelling at 80mph (130km/h) on a curve with a speed limit of 30mph, data from the train’s rear engine indicates.

It happened in Washington state during rush hour on Monday. Officials say 100 people were taken to hospital.

The train crashed shortly after leaving a new station on its inaugural run.

Two friends who are railroad enthusiasts were identified as among the fatalities on Tuesday.

Rail aficionado Zack Willhoite, 35, was identified by his employer Pierce Transit, who said the IT specialist “played an important role in our agency”.

The National Association of Railroad Passengers identified board member Jim Hamre as another victim.

“He was a dedicated passenger rail advocate doing what he loved to do. Riding trains, promoting travel and making friends”, club president Peter LeCody wrote on Twitter.

Authorities said all carriages had now been searched, but would not rule out a rise in the number of dead.

A spokeswoman for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said investigators had arrived at the scene on Monday night local time and would probably be there for a week or 10 days.

Bella Dinh-Zarr said the 12-carriage train had engines at the front and rear. The back engine’s data recording had been retrieved, she said, and “preliminary indications are that the train was travelling at 80mph on a 30mph track”.

“Our hearts go out to everyone who is affected by this very tragic accident,” she said, adding that the train’s engineer had not yet been interviewed but will be in “within the next day or so”.

Warning signs

Passengers say the train rocked and creaked as it took the bend fast before barrelling off a bridge on to a motorway packed with traffic.

Seven vehicles, two of them lorries, were hit on the I-5 highway below. Several people were injured in their vehicles but none died.

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Media captionPassenger describes the train crash: “We could feel cars crumpling”

State transport spokesperson Barbara LaBoe was quoted in the Seattle Times newspaper as saying the limit on most of the track was 79mph (128km/h) but drivers were supposed to slow dramatically at the spot where the train derailed.

She said warning signs were in place two miles before the lowered limit.

It was Amtrak’s first passenger service to run on a new, shorter route after an investment of $181m (£82m).

Amtrak is the name of the company that runs most passenger trains in the US, with some government funding.

The derailment happened on a section of track previously only used for freight trains.

A safety system called Positive Train Control (PTC) was not operational on the train in question, the president of Amtrak told reporters. Using GPS tracking, PTC automatically warns the driver of speed limits and other local conditions and applies the train’s brakes if the warnings are not heeded.

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