West Virginia residents may be aware that three people died on Dec. 18 when an Amtrak train plunged off a bridge near Tacoma, Washington, but they may not know that National Transportation Safety Board investigators have determined that the train was traveling at 80 miles per hour on a stretch of track with a speed limit of 30 miles per hour when it crashed. The train, which was made up of 12 cars and 2 locomotives traveling from Seattle to Portland, was carrying approximately 80 passengers at the time of the accident.
The train's speed at the time of the derailment was determined after its event data recorder was recovered by accident investigators. However, the NTSB says that investigators have yet to ascertain why the train was traveling so fast. In addition to the three people who lost their lives, 72 passengers and road users were transported to area hospitals with injuries they suffered when five rail cars plunged onto Interstate 5 at approximately 7:33 a.m.
It has also been revealed that the train was not fitted with positive train control technology that is designed to prevent exactly this kind of accident. The derailment occurred on a stretch of track that was recently refurbished to reduce the traveling times in the area. The refurbishment was part of an $800 million project called the Cascades High-Speed Rail Capital Program.
Rail passengers are especially vulnerable because they have no seat belts to restrain them in the event of a crash. When train accidents are caused wholly or in part by negligent behavior, personal injury attorneys with experience in these cases may pursue civil remedies on behalf of passengers or railroad employees who suffered injury, loss or damage. When preparing this type of lawsuit, attorneys might study NTSB reports closely to identify reckless actions.