Amtrak derailment prompts a broad emergency response, road closures in the area
An Amtrak train carrying 267 passengers derailed Sunday in Steilacoom near Chambers Bay at about 2:30 p.m., prompting a broad emergency response, road closures in the area and a slow evacuation.
No significant injuries were reported, according to Battalion Chief Scott Adams of West Pierce Fire and Rescue, although Amtrak later reported there were several minor ones.
“Four cars of the 15 did derail, and there were no injuries, there was no fire,” Adams said. He added that no fuel spilled into the bay, though emergency crews are prepared for it.
Crews from the state Department of Ecology deployed booms in the water near Steilacoom Marina in the event of a leak.
“Some of the lead cars have up to 1,800 gallons of fuel,” Adams said. “As of right now, there has not been any fuel leakage into the Sound.”
Amtrak issued a statement about 5 p.m. Sunday saying the cause of the derailment was still under investigation. Adams said Amtrak investigators are in charge of the inquiry. The locomotive that derailed is the Amtrak Cascades train, which runs between Vancouver, Canada, and Eugene-Springfield, Oregon.
Pierce Transit buses deployed to the scene evacuated the passengers. Paul Zerfluh was waiting for them. His son was on the train, returning from a trip to Portland with friends.
“No warning ahead of time, the brakes go on, the car comes to a violent stop,” Zerfluh said, recounting what his son told him. “All of a sudden the realization is they’ve got cars that have broken outside the line of the tracks, and they’re dangling on the rocks, close to the water.”
Zahr Said, an associate professor at the University of Washington School of Law, was on the train.
Said reported via Twitter that her husband saw "a cloud of smoke" just before the derailment.
“Chaos over Amtrak train derailment continues but thankfully not much visible injury,” Said tweeted about 3:45 p.m..
She posted later that she saw some people on stretchers “but mainly people are just hot ...”
Authorities later brought in buses to transport passengers away from the scene, Said tweeted.
“Long single file line to check out (head count one by one). Then bus to police station in half hour, or uber/lyft.”
Around 6 p.m. Amtrak announced the tracks had reopened for service at limited speeds.