On December 18, 2017, about 7:33 am Pacific Standard Time, westbound Amtrak train 501 consisting of 12 passenger cars and 2 locomotives derailed at mile-post 19.8 on the Lakewood subdivision from a bridge near Dupont, Washington. The train was on its first revenue service run on single main track from Tacoma when it derailed. Several passenger cars fell onto Interstate 5, hitting several highway vehicles.
The authorized track speed in the area of the accident was 79-mph on approach to the 30-mph curve just before the bridge. A speed board (sign) was located about 2-miles before the curve. Positive Train Control is not in service on the line the train was operating on. Sound Transit reports that PTC is currently being installed, but installation is not complete.
Preliminary indications from the rear locomotive event recorder show the train was traveling at about 80-mph before a sudden reduction in brake-pipe which initiated the emergency train brakes. The reduction in the brake pipe does not appear to be engineer induced.
NTSB Board Member Bella Dinh-Zarr was the principal spokesperson during the on-scene phase of the investigation.
12/13/2018 - Investigation Status
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The DuPont railroad accident investigation is about two-thirds complete.
The NTSB investigators are studying several safety issues associated with the accident. One group of investigators has focused on the crashworthiness of the passenger cars. Another group is collecting and analyzing data regarding the decisions to start the train operations on Defiant Bypass. This effort includes the physical upgrades and the training and qualification of the operating crews. A specific area of interest is the system safety approach and the mitigation of identified potential hazards. Another group is examining the emergency response and injury causations.
On July 10 - 11, 2018, the NTSB conducted an investigative hearing about the railroad accident in DuPont, Washington: Managing Safety on Passenger Railroads. During the hearing, the NTSB heard testimony from multiple stakeholders. The information gathered during the hearing allowed investigators to gain additional information regarding the accident. Investigators are currently analyzing the factual information that was gathered.The NTSB investigators plan to complete the analysis in the coming months. A final report will be delivered to the Board in a public board meeting in 2019.
Updates on the NTSB’s investigation of this derailment and announcements about potential media briefings will be issued via Twitter from our handle @NTSB_Newsroom.
See the photos on Flickr