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Amtrak train derailment leaves 'a thousand unanswered questions'

Amtrak's president says the company is "profoundly sorry" after a train derailed this week in Washington state and hu...

Posted: Dec 21, 2017 1:56 PM
Updated: Dec 21, 2017 1:56 PM

Amtrak's president says the company is "profoundly sorry" after a train derailed this week in Washington state and hurtled off an overpass onto a freeway, killing three people.

"We share everyone's sense of urgency to identify exactly what caused this to happen, and we continue to fully cooperate with the investigation being led by the NTSB," Richard Anderson said in a statement.

Governor says Amtrak has said it will pay for all costs from deadly crash

Cascades 501 train was traveling at 80 mph in a 30-mph zone when it crashed

All the crew members are hospitalized, and the National Transportation Safety Board is setting up interviews with them to get more details on Monday's crash of Amtrak Cascades 501 near DuPont, Washington. The train was on its inaugural journey from Seattle to Portland, Oregon.

So far, there are many questions but few answers. It's unclear why the train was traveling 80 mph in a 30-mph zone, NTSB member Bella Dinh-Zarr said.

Adding to the mystery, positive train control, the technology that can automatically slow down a speeding train, wasn't activated.

"The locomotive was in the process of getting a system of PTC installed, but it was not yet functional," Dinh-Zarr said. Instead, that segment of tracks had centralized traffic control, she said, which can't enforce speed restrictions on a train like PTC.

Victims' families and officials struggled to understand how the tragedy happened.

"There are a thousand unanswered questions about this right now," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said. "One of the questions is, could that speed control have made a difference? We don't know that for sure at the moment either."

Latest developments

- Amtrak's president is apologizing for the train derailment, which also injured 100 others.

- "We are profoundly sorry for those who have lost a loved one, were injured, or are otherwise impacted by this horrible event," Anderson said.

- All three victims have been identified. They are Benjamin Gran, Jim Hamre and Zack Willhoite.

- At least 24 people injured in the crash remain hospitalized, officials said.

- Two people were in the cab in the front locomotive during the crash, the NTSB's Dinh-Zarr said. The engineer was joined by a conductor who was learning the new route, she said. Amtrak's Anderson said such an arrangement is not unusual.

- Data recorders from the front and rear locomotives have been recovered, Dinh-Zarr said. Cameras from the train were damaged and have been sent to Washington, D.C., to see whether video can be retrieved.

- Some lanes of Interstate 5 that have been closed since the derailment reopened Wednesday night, the Washington State Department of Transportation said via Twitter.

- The governor tweeted that Amtrak's Anderson had committed to paying for the impact of the derailment.

"Those costs include all the medical and incidental expenses incurred by those injured and their families, the cleanup and repair of the roadway, and the restoration of passenger rail service," Inslee wrote.

The victims

On Wednesday, the Pierce County medical examiner's office identified Benjamin Gran, 40, from Auburn, Washington, as one of the three men killed.

The two other victims were Jim Hamre, 61, and Zack Willhoite, 35, the Rail Passengers Association said. Hamre and Willhoite wanted to experience the first trip on the new service route.

The two friends traveled to ride trains together, CNN affiliate KIRO reported. They were also members of All Aboard Washington, a rail advocacy group in their home state.

'We have to assure people's confidence in rail transit'

Investigators will likely examine the track, human performance, operations and mechanics of the train. The track in Washington state had undergone millions of dollars of improvements and weeks of testing.

The questions investigators will be asking after Amtrak derailment

"We have to assure people's confidence in rail transit," Inslee said. "It's very difficult to understand, but rail transit is still the safest method of transit today. But that's not good enough for us. We want zero accidents and zero tragedies of this nature."

The NTSB has recommended the use of PTC for decades. Railroad companies have until the end of 2018 and a possible extension to 2020 to implement the costly system.

Amtrak's Anderson told reporters Tuesday: "It's not clear yet from the NTSB whether PTC would have prevented the accident or not. We really must wait for the NTSB to give us that information."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 352891

Reported Deaths: 7597
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds24704451
DeSoto23619283
Harrison21395335
Jackson15984255
Rankin15957294
Madison11224227
Lee10952180
Jones9316171
Forrest9136163
Lauderdale8211244
Lamar736590
Lowndes7253152
Lafayette6658125
Washington5681140
Pearl River5396155
Oktibbeha506598
Bolivar5022134
Warren4828128
Panola4823112
Marshall4759106
Pontotoc455773
Neshoba4487181
Hancock444488
Union441479
Monroe4390138
Lincoln4247116
Pike3771114
Leflore3696125
Alcorn362474
Tate356188
Sunflower351794
Adams350690
Scott349177
Yazoo344877
Copiah333569
Simpson329191
Itawamba318581
Tippah316569
Coahoma316385
Covington305584
Prentiss304163
Leake291976
Marion291882
George285851
Wayne282345
Grenada272488
Newton269264
Tishomingo241670
Stone240038
Winston238484
Jasper236248
Attala229974
Chickasaw222760
Clay204654
Holmes204374
Clarke190480
Tallahatchie185842
Smith184936
Calhoun184632
Yalobusha174241
Walthall151249
Lawrence146426
Greene144735
Amite140144
Noxubee137635
Perry137038
Montgomery134644
Carroll127531
Webster125132
Jefferson Davis121334
Tunica116627
Benton108425
Claiborne106131
Kemper105029
Humphreys102533
Franklin88724
Quitman86819
Choctaw83619
Wilkinson79632
Jefferson72328
Sharkey52018
Issaquena1746
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 595816

Reported Deaths: 11561
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson865251591
Mobile50436872
Madison37905534
Shelby27652260
Tuscaloosa27422465
Montgomery26428628
Baldwin26175329
Lee17414181
Calhoun15549334
Morgan15265291
Etowah15106372
Marshall13248236
Houston12297294
Elmore11006220
St. Clair10903252
Limestone10867158
Cullman10643206
Lauderdale10374255
DeKalb9603193
Talladega9032188
Walker7873288
Autauga7635114
Blount7463140
Jackson7450117
Colbert6780142
Coffee6515132
Dale5803117
Covington4864125
Russell483543
Chilton4828117
Franklin465681
Tallapoosa4591156
Escambia457583
Chambers4007125
Dallas3756164
Clarke374663
Marion3490107
Pike336979
Lawrence3280100
Winston301973
Bibb293766
Geneva293083
Marengo263867
Barbour254361
Pickens247962
Butler243672
Hale236979
Fayette228565
Henry218845
Monroe206941
Randolph203844
Cherokee201748
Washington189439
Macon172252
Crenshaw171758
Clay167659
Cleburne161845
Lamar152638
Lowndes146555
Wilcox132731
Bullock126542
Conecuh123032
Coosa119729
Perry111228
Sumter110933
Greene99937
Choctaw64525
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Thursday will start off once again in the unseasonably cool 60s. We will top off just a few degrees warmer on our Thursday, in comparison to our Wednesday. Most of the high temperatures will be in the lower 90s.
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