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


Boeing Max 737 families...

Associated Press

Victims of Boeing 737 Max crashes asking for the company to be fined billions

Families of some of the people who died in two Boeing 737 Max crashes are asking federal officials to fine Boeing $24.8 billion

22 days ago

road rage shooting...

Kate Stone

Man faces multiple charges after WSP trooper shooting in Kent

A man accused of shooting a Washington State Patrol trooper multiple times in Kent last Friday has been charged.

5 months ago

Oregon Emergency Landing - (Elizabeth Le via AP)...

KIRO 7 News Staff

‘Everyone was eerily calm,’ recalls passenger aboard ill-fated Alaska Airlines flight

Terror in the skies: A Vancouver, Washington, woman shares the harrowing moments after an airplane blowout over Portland.

6 months ago

juveniles high-speed pursuit...

KIRO 7 News Staff

Two men shot at bus stop in North Seattle near Northgate

Two men were shot at a bus stop along Aurora Avenue Wednesday, according to the Seattle Police Department.

9 months ago

Manuel Ellis arrest, Tacoma police officers...

Associated Press

Prosecutors focus on video evidence in trial of Washington officers charged in Manny Ellis’ death

A cellphone video of the 2020 fatal arrest of Manny Ellis shows the Black man on the ground with his hands in the air in surrender

9 months ago

(File photo)...

L.B. Gilbert

NLRB files complaint against Amazon for unlawful confidentiality agreement

A new complaint from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB ) is accusing Amazon of requiring some corporate employees to sign an unlawful confidentiality agreement. The complaint states Amazon had required a former employee from its drone project, Amazon Prime Air, to sign an agreement that forbade discussion of information regarding Amazon, whether or not […]

10 months ago

Sound Transit, WSDOT among agencies blamed for fatal Amtrak derailment