A preliminary investigation into the Amtrak Cascades 501 train derailment in Washington state has revealed that the train was traveling significantly above the speed limit moments before it lurched off an overpass and landed on rush hour traffic on the highway below.
Three people were killed and over 100 others were injured when the train – traveling its first journey on a new route from Seattle to Portland – slipped from the tracks while traveling 80 mph in a 30-mph zone. The locomotive was navigating a turn when disaster struck.
Now, officials with the National Transportation Safety Board are placing the blame on the vehicle’s lack of positive train control (PTC), an improvement that forces speeding trains to slow down and come to a stop to avoid tragedies such as Monday’s.
“We have recommended PTC for decades,” NTSB member T. Bella Dinh-Zarr told CNN. “Unfortunately the deadline was moved farther into the future, and every year that we wait to implement PTC to its fullest extent means that more people will be killed and injured.”
Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson, whose community is situated about 11 miles northeast from the crash site, raised an alarm about possible safety concerns about the rail line back in 2013.
“Our community was concerned about the safety of a high-speed passenger rail line coming through on urbanized area on what had been, for years, essentially an abandoned rail route,” he said.
Anderson went as far as to due Washington’s Department of Transportation in 2013, alleging that the project had not “undergone sufficient environmental review.” The case was dismissed in 2014.
NTSB and local authorities have yet to say what caused the crash, but initial speculation has centered on the lack of activated PTC and the high speeds at which the train was traveling.