"I knew right away that this was a major accident, that there was probably going to be some pretty, pretty graphic fatalities and injuries, so I prepared myself for the worst going in - and I hoped for the best - and there was both", he said.
State transportation authorities reported that the $181 million new route passes over Interstate 5 which allows the trains to reach a higher speed of 79 miles per hour, shortening the commute time. Another 20 patients were treated at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, nine in "serious but stable" condition, the center said.
Amtrak reported in a statement that 78 passengers and five crew members were aboard the train when it crashed.
Some people escaped by kicking out windows, passenger Chris Karnes told local news outlet KIRO 7.
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.
"The next thing we know, we're being slammed into the front of our seats, windows are breaking, we stop, and there's water gushing out of the train".
The train was making the inaugural run on the new route as part of a $180.7 million project created 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. We've got cars everywhere and down onto the highway, " he tells the dispatcher, who asks if everyone is OK.
Below you can listen to the calls exchanged on the dispatch for the BNSF Railway, as the train's conductor bursts into the confusion of chatter and calls for help after its derailment, courtesy of Broadcastify.
The National Transportation Safety Board, for its part, says it is opening an investigation into the incident and sending a team to the site Monday.
He said the wreck shows "more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly". The Federal Railroad Administration also tweeted it has investigators en route to the scene. The work was done by Sound Transit, which owns the track, and reviewed by the FRA, the department said on Monday. As the Northwest News Network's Austin Jenkins told Here & Now,"this is Interstate 5, the main north-south thoroughfare through Washington state - and for that matter, up and down the West Coast".
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Three people were killed, and at least 100 people were taken to area hospitals after the train derailed. The NTSB concluded the driver became distracted by radio transmissions and lost track of where he was.