Official says at least 6 dead in Amtrak crash; Was making inaugural higher speed run

DUPONT, WA (ABC NEWS) – An Amtrak train derailed in Washington state this morning, leaving “multiple fatalities” after part of the train careened off an overpass onto a heavily-trafficked highway below, a local official said.

The AP is reporting that the train was making an inaugural run for higher speed service, local officials had warned of dangers however.

The derailed train was the first to carry paying customers on a new route for Amtrak. This track had carried freight trains, but was recently upgraded to carry passengers. In a press release last week, Amtrak said using this route would allow for two more daily round-trips between Seattle and Portland and help trains avoid traveling around tight corners and tunnels.

In the wake of the derailment, dozens of motorists on the northbound roadway sprang into action to help, a witness told ABC affiliate KOMO-TV.

Witness Greg Mukai told ABC News he drove by shortly after the derailment and the “[train] carriage looked like it collided with some cars on the freeway.”

Mukai said he saw smoke everywhere and injured people carried out on stretchers.

LATEST FROM AMTRAK—78 PASSENGERS ON BOARD, 5 CREW:

Amtrak Cascades Train 501, operating from Seattle and Portland, derailed south of Tacoma, Wash. There were approximately 78 passengers and five crew members on board. Initial reports are that some injuries are reported to passengers and crew, and taken to local medical facilities for treatment. Individuals with questions about their friends and family on this train should call (800) 523-9101.  Local emergency responders are on the scene.  Service from Seattle to points north and east is continuing to operate. Amtrak Cascades Trains 504 and 509 are cancelled. No alternate transportation will be available. Additional updates will be provided when available.

TRAIN THAT DERAILED WAS THE FIRST TRAIN CARRYING PAYING CUSTOMERS ON A NEW ROUTE FOR AMTRAK:

Per Whitney Lloyd, the train that derailed was the first train carrying paying customers on a new route for Amtrak. The track Amtrak 501 was traveling down had been carrying freight trains, but was recently upgraded to carry passenger trains. In a press release last week, Amtrak said using this route would allow them to operate two more daily roundtrips between Seattle and Portland and allow Amtrak trains to avoid traveling around tight corners and tunnels. (See full statement on Domestic DL)

NTSB SENDING A TEAM FOR AMTRAK 501:

Confirmed with the NTSB. Member Bella Dinh-Zara will be the board member on the scene.