Sound Transit, WSDOT among agencies blamed for fatal Amtrak derailment

May 21, 2019, 6:24 PM | Updated: May 22, 2019, 6:13 am
Amtrak train derailment...
Cars from an Amtrak train lay spilled onto Interstate 5 below alongside smashed vehicles after the derailment. (File, Associated Press)
(File, Associated Press)

The fatal derailing of an Amtrak train in 2017 was the fault of multiple agencies, including Sound Transit and the Washington State Department of Transportation, according to federal safety investigators.

Remembering the Amtrak 501 derailment a year later

The crash on the morning of Dec. 18, 2017, killed three people and injured more than 80, including passengers and crew members on board, as well as people hurt when the train flew off a freeway overpass and into traffic on southbound Interstate 5.

The train was on its inaugural run on the new bypass when it entered a sharp curve at more than 80 mph. The posted limit for the curve is 30 mph. Investigators say the engineer at the controls had little experience on the route and missed speed limit signs warning him to slow down.

The National Transportation Safety Board cited failures from several agencies during a Tuesday hearing.

Investigators blamed Sound Transit for not sufficiently mitigating the danger of the sharp bend near DuPont. They accused Amtrak of not adequately training the engineer operating the train. WSDOT took the blame for not ensuring the route was safe before green-lighting a passenger train.

The Federal Railroad Administration was also blamed for using rail cars that fell beneath regulatory standards.

State Senator Steve O’Ban labeled the incident an “abject failure.”

Amtrak 501 survivor — ‘I still have nightmares’

“I’m appalled at the incompetence and complete lack of accountability that created the chain of failure that day,” said O’Ban in a news release.

Sen. O’Ban went on to call for consequences for anyone involved in the chain of events that led to the tragedy.

“I want to hear who is losing their job because of this clear failure that resulted in the tragic loss of lives,” he said.

NTSB investigators noted that service on the Point Defiance Bypass “set up the engineer to fail,” and that the incident was entirely preventable.

“Could this accident have been prevented? The answer is a resounding yes,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.

KIRO 7 TV’s Kevin McCarty  and KIRO Radio Staff contributed to this report

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Sound Transit, WSDOT among agencies blamed for fatal Amtrak derailment