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UPDATE: Train’s Emergency Brake Automatically Activated

The train was making the inaugural run on the new route as part of a $180.7 million project designed to speed up service

THE LATEST on an Amtrak train derailment in Washington state (all times local):

3:50 p.m.

U.S. investigators say preliminary information indicates that the emergency brake on the Amtrak train that derailed in Washington state went off automatically.

National Transportation Safety Board member Bella Dinh-Zarr told reporters Tuesday that the brake was not manually activated by the engineer.

She says they’re reviewing the event data recorder from the lead locomotive after having already retrieved the device from the rear engine, which showed the train was going 80 mph in a 30 mph zone.

Dinh-Zarr confirmed two people were in the cab: the engineer and a conductor who was training.

Federal officials also say the conductor had been qualified to operate the train in the area in the last couple of weeks, but the NTSB is looking into the process.

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2 p.m.

Critical safety technology designed to automatically slow or stop trains that are going too fast was not working on a section of track outside of Seattle where an Amtrak train derailed, killing three people.

Sound Transit said Tuesday that the company was on schedule to have positive train control installed and operational in the spring, ahead of a December 2018 federal deadline.

The system would be able to take over control of a train when an engineer is distracted or incapacitated.

Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick said the “vast majority” of equipment needed had been installed but not fully operational along the tracks and trains in the 14.5-mile (23.3-kilometer) section of line where the derailment occurred.

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11:30 a.m.

A relative says a rail advocate is one of the three people killed in the deadly Amtrak derailment in Washington state.

Rachel Topper said Tuesday that she has been notified of the death of her uncle Jim Hamre in Monday’s crash. Topper said the family has no further comment.

In a Facebook post, she said they were heartbroken and that Hamre will be missed by many.

Lloyd Flem, executive director of rail advocacy organization All Aboard Washington, says Hamre retired a few years ago as a civil engineer at the Washington Transportation Department. He says Hamre lived with his mother in Puyallup.

Another rail advocate, Zack Willhoite, also died when the train plunged off an overpass and onto Interstate 5 south of Seattle on Monday. The train was making its first run on faster route.

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11:25 a.m.

Authorities say they’re starting to move train cars that derailed outside Seattle and hurtled onto a highway below, killing three people.

Capt. Dan Hall with the Washington State Patrol says the cars will be loaded onto trucks starting Tuesday and taken to a secure facility as the National Transportation Safety Board investigates.

State Transportation Department spokesman Travis Phelps says Interstate 5 will be closed through Tuesday night and could be shut down for several days as officials finish the investigation at the scene.

He says the next step is assessing the overpass and the road below.

The Amtrak train derailed during its inaugural run along a new faster route. U.S. investigators say they haven’t determined a cause of the crash but revealed that the train was traveling 80 mph in a 30 mph zone.

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10:35 a.m.

A U.S. official says investigators are examining whether an Amtrak engineer was distracted when a speeding train derailed, killing three people and sending several rail cars flying off an overpass.

The official said Tuesday that in addition to the engineer, there was another employee training in the train’s cab Monday.

The official says investigators are looking into whether the engineer lost “situational awareness.”

The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Audio dispatch in which a crew member discusses injuries to the engineer mentions a second person in the front of the train, who was also hurt.

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9:14 a.m.

A victim in the deadly Amtrak derailment in Washington state has been identified as an employee of a local transit agency and a rail advocate.

Pierce Transit released a statement saying that Zack Willhoite, a customer service support specialist, was killed in Monday’s derailment.

Authorities say three people died and dozens were injured when the train plunged off an overpass over Interstate 5 south of Seattle. The train was making its inaugural run.

Pierce Transit says Willhoite was “admired by his colleagues.”

Lloyd Flem, executive director of All Aboard Washington, says Willhoite was a rail advocate and it was a given that he would be on the trip.

Federal investigators say they haven’t determined a cause of the derailment but revealed that the train was travelling 80 mph in a 30 mph zone.

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8:35 a.m.

Crews have removed train cars involved in a deadly Amtrak derailment from a railway overpass in Washington state.

Authorities say there are three confirmed deaths. Dozens were injured.

The train cars were loaded Tuesday onto flatbed trucks and drive away on Interstate 5.

Authorities say a total of 13 train cars jumped the tracks early Monday south of Seattle.

The Amtrak train careened off the overpass above Interstate 5 during its inaugural run along a new bypass route. The train carried 85 passengers and crew members.

Federal investigators say they haven’t determined a cause of the derailment but revealed late Monday that the train was travelling 80 mph in a 30 mph zone. Investigators are on the scene.

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Federal officials confirmed an Amtrak train was hurtling 50 mph over the speed limit when it careened off an overpass south of Seattle, spilling cars onto the highway below and killing at least three people.

Bella Dinh-Zarr, a National Transportation Safety Board member, said at a Monday night news conference that information from the event data recorder in the rear locomotive showed the train was traveling at 80 mph in a 30 mph zone when it derailed at 7:34 a.m. Mangled train cars ended up on top of each other – and one hung precariously over the freeway.

When the clanging of metal and screeching stopped at first it was quiet. Then came the screams.

After the crash, the injured called out as rescuers — including people who had been in cars on their morning freeway commute — rushed to help. One of the train passengers was Emma Shafer, who found herself at a 45-degree angle staring at the seats in front of her that had dislodged and swung around.

“It felt oddly silent after the actual crashing,” Shafer said. “Then there was people screaming because their leg was messed up … I don’t know if I actually heard the sirens, but they were there. A guy was like, ‘Hey, I’m Robert. We’ll get you out of here.'”

Dinh-Zarr said it’s not yet known what caused the train to derail and that “it’s too early to tell” why it was going so fast.

Positive train control — the technology that can slow or stop a speeding train — wasn’t in use on this stretch of track, according to Amtrak President Richard Anderson.

In 2015, an Amtrak train in Philadelphia was traveling at twice the 50 mph speed limit as it entered a sharp curve and derailed. Eight people were killed and more than 200 were injured when the locomotive and four of the train’s seven passenger cars jumped the tracks. Several cars overturned and ripped apart.

A track chart prepared by the Washington State Department of Transportation shows the maximum speed drops from 79 mph (127 kph) to 30 mph (48 kph) for passenger trains just before the tracks curve to cross Interstate 5, which is where the train went off the tracks.

The chart, dated Feb. 7, was submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration in anticipation of the start of passenger service along a new bypass route that shaves off 10 minutes for the trip between Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

Kimberly Reason with Sound Transit, the Seattle-area transit agency that owns the tracks, said speed signs are posted 2 miles (3 kilometers) before the speed zone changes and just before the speed zone approaching the curve.

Eric Corp, a councilman for the small city of DuPont near the derailment, said he rode the train with about 30 or so dignitaries and others on a special trip Friday before the service opened to the public Monday.

“Once we were coming up on that curve, the train slowed down considerably,” he said, adding that “in no way did it make me feel like we were going too fast.”

The train was not full. Authorities said there were 80 passengers and five on-duty crew members on board when it derailed and pulled 13 cars off the tracks. Authorities said there were three confirmed deaths. More than 70 people were taken for medical care — including 10 with serious injuries.

About two hours after the accident, a U.S. official who was briefed on the investigation said he was told at least six people were killed. The official said he had no new information to explain the discrepancy in the numbers. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

In a statement, the FBI said local police were the primary responders and there was no information suggesting “an elevated risk to Washington residents.”

In a radio transmission immediately after the accident, the conductor can be heard saying the train was coming around a corner and was crossing a bridge that passed over Interstate 5 when it derailed.

Dispatch audio also indicated that the engineer survived with bleeding from the head and both eyes swollen shut.

“I’m still figuring that out. We’ve got cars everywhere and down onto the highway,” he tells the dispatcher, who asks if everyone is OK.

Aleksander Kristiansen, a 24-year-old exchange student at the University of Washington from Copenhagen, was going to Portland to visit the city for the day.

“I was just coming out of the bathroom when the accident happened. My car just started shaking really, really badly,” he said.

The back of his train car was wide open because it had separated from the rest of the train, so he and others were able to jump out to safety.

The train was making the inaugural run on the new route as part of a $180.7 million project designed to speed up service by removing passenger trains from a route along Puget Sound that’s bogged down by curves, single-track tunnels and freight traffic.

The new bypass was built on an existing inland rail line that runs along Interstate 5 from Tacoma to DuPont, near where Train 501 derailed.

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This story has been updated to reflect that authorities said Monday night that three people died. A U.S. official said earlier that six people were killed.

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