At least 3 dead after derailed Amtrak train plunges off bridge in Washington

This aerial image from video provided by KOMO-TV, shows the site of an Amtrak train that derailed south of Seattle on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. Authorities reported "injuries and casualties." The train derailed about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Seattle before 8 a.m., spilling at least one train car on to busy Interstate 5. (KOMO-TV)

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. (KOMO) A southbound Amtrak train plunged off a bridge onto Interstate 5 south of Tacoma Monday morning, killing at least three people and injuring dozens more, according to the Associated Press.

"We have fatalities and casualties," said Detective Ed Troyer of the Pierce County Sheriff's Department. "This is a regional mass casualty response."

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Troyer said all the dead were on the train, which derailed at 7:40 a.m. Several cars and trucks were hit by train cars.

Seventy-eight passengers and five crew members were aboard when the train derailed about 40 miles south of Seattle before 8 a.m., Amtrak said. An 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, according to the Associated Press.

A Washington State Patrol official said the train consisted of 12 cars and two engines, and 13 cars jumped the track when the train derailed.

Troyer said two train cars are too unstable to count those dead inside and the death toll will rise once they are able to be counted.

Four hospitals say 50 patients were taken to hospitals in Pierce and Thurston counties, said Cary Evans, communications and government affairs director of CHI Franciscan Health. Twenty of those patients went to Madigan Army Medical Center where nine were in serious condition, according to a hospital spokesperson. The other 11 patients were in fair and stable condition. At other hospitals, 14 were taken to Good Samaritan Hospital, 5 patients to Allenmore, 3 patients to Tacoma General, 10 patients to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia. It is not immediately known where the others were taken. Of that other group, at least two people are in critical condition and 11 others are seriously injured.

Medical tents were set up in the highway median just south of DuPont.

Chris Karnes was on the train, three or four cars back from the front.

"We had just passed the city of DuPont and maybe two or three minutes after that and we felt a little bit of wobbling and then the next thing that we knew we were being catapulted into the seats in front of us and we could hear the train derailing and metal crunching," Karnes told KOMO NewsRadio. "There were people screaming -- everything was dark. We had to kick out the window in order to get off the train."

The White House said President Donald Trump and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen have been briefed on the incident. Trump tweeted that it demonstrates the need to pass his "soon to be submitted infrastructure plan."

Four have the most severe injuries.

Among the hospitals patients are being taken to are St. Joseph's, St. Claire's, St. Anthony's and Tacoma General.

Motorists are being warned to avoid the area. A family reunification area was set up DuPont City Hall, and Amtrak advised those inquiring about family and friends on the train to call 800-523-9101 for updates.

"I was just shocked," said Peter Zimmerman of Olympia. "I couldn't believe it. It was like something out of a movie."

State transportation officials say the train derailed near Mounts Road.

The Pierce County Sheriff's Office reported that "multiple motorists" were injured on the roadway below the train.

Amtrak officials said the train was the No. 501, which operates between Seattle and Portland.

The train had just begun using a new high-speed route Monday morning.

According to the Associated Press, the maximum speed for trains along that stretch of the route is 79 mph.

Amtrak service south of Seattle is temporarily suspended. Service from Seattle to points north and east is continuing to operate.

Train 501 left Seattle around 6 a.m. Monday, according to an Amtrak schedule, and was due in Portland about 3 1/2 hours later.

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