An Amtrak train on the inaugural run of a new route derailed in Washington state this morning, leaving "multiple fatalities" and dozens of injuries after part of the train careened off an overpass onto a heavily-trafficked highway below, a local official said.
It wasn't immediately clear how many people died on board the train but no one was killed on the roadway of Interstate 5 below, according to the Pierce County Sheriff's Office. Several motorists on the highway near Dupont, about 20 miles south of Tacoma, were injured when their vehicles were struck by the derailed train.
The crash left the train's cars scattered in the surrounding woods and dangling off the overpass and "catapulted" passengers into the seats in front of them, according to a survivor.
In the wake of the crash, dozens of motorists sprang into action, jumping out of their cars to help.
In addition to those who died, 77 people were taken to hospitals in Pierce and Thurston Counties, said Cary Evans, vice president of communications and government affairs at CHI Franciscan Health. Four of those were described as being in the most serious condition.
In his first tweet on the derailment, President Donald Trump said the crash demonstrates the need for quick action on infrastructure, but made no mention of the victims. Several minutes later, he extended his "thoughts and prayers" to those affected by the crash, sentiments he repeated in his national security speech.
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.
The cause of the incident was not immediately known.
One passenger on the train, who was not seriously injured, said he heard a creaking before the crash and was “catapulted” forward on impact.
"We heard a creaking [sound],” Chris Karnes told ABC News. “The train started to wobble for a moment. And then we were catapulted at the seats in front of us and the next thing that we knew, our car had crumpled at a portion at the top and we were down an embankment."
After the impact, Karnes said his train car “came to rest on a hill — there was water and a ton of dust flew up into the air.”
Karnes later went to the medical tent and said he could see the train “overhanging, connected to the car behind it but not connected to the car in front of it.”
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.
In addition to the train cars that were visibly dangling off the overpass, “there are three or four more cars upside-down where you can’t see,” with some in the woods, Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer told CNN.
About 78 passengers and five crew members were on board the train, according to Amtrak and a Washington state Department of Transportation spokesperson.
The Washington State Department of Transportation said the derailment was blocking all southbound lanes of Interstate 5 near Mounts Road in Pierce County, and the governor is urging travelers to avoid I-5.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called the derailment "a serious and ongoing emergency," adding, "[Washington State First Lady Trudi Inslee] and I are holding in our hearts everyone on board, and are praying for the many injured."
Amtrak said anyone with questions about family and friends on the train can call 800-523-9101.
This story is developing. Please check back for more updates.
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