‘Everything went dark’ — passengers speak about Amtrak derailment, aftermath

Passengers of the Amtrak train that derailed Monday in DuPont detailed the wreck for The News Tribune. Some climbed out of the train and helped one another in the aftermath.

Chris Karnes, who chairs the Pierce Transit advisory board, was one of the more than 80 people on board the train, which was making its first run on a new route through the county.

“I was wanting to be on the inaugural run of the first train that went out of the new Tacoma station at Freighthouse Square to Portland,” he said. “... This was the first passenger train to go over these tracks.”

The 32-year-old spoke from an evacuation bus that was taking him and other uninjured passengers from the scene.

Karnes said the train had gotten to Tacoma about 30 minutes late.

“Once we left the station we seemed to be moving at a pretty good clip,” he said.

The tracks are supposed to be rated for 79 miles per hour, and it seemed the train was going about that speed, Karnes said, because it was passing cars heading south on Interstate 5.

“At a certain point the train wobbled for a second, and the next thing we knew we were being sort of catapulted into the seats in front of us,” he said.

“There were crashing and crunching noises, the lights went out. There was glass shattering, everyone’s personal belongings flew to the front of the car and people were screaming.”

About 10 people were in his car, most of who were unhurt in the crash, he said.

“There was one person who was injured,” Karnes said. “They were unconscious, but they were breathing.”

Karnes said he climbed out of a window and onto an embankment, to try to get help.

“We had to use the emergency window, so we pulled off the seal around the window and pushed out to get that to go, because the door was not functioning,” he said.

He called 911, but the line was busy. When a dispatcher called back, Karnes confirmed the train had derailed.

Then emergency workers arrived.

“There was everybody,” he said. “I could see fire trucks from South Thurston County, from DuPont. There were military personnel from (Joint Base Lewis-McChord) who were helping to coordinate the effort.”

Karnes was evaluated in an emergency tent, as a precaution, and then directed to one of the evacuation buses.

Anthony Raimondi, 72 of Gig Harbor, was on the train, in the business class car, to experience the inaugural day. He’d parked at the Tacoma Dome, and planned to go to Portland and back Monday.

“I felt the train starting to go on its side,” he said. “Then I felt some bumps. Then everything went dark, and I started climbing around.”

He climbed out of the train with a bit of help from others, and still had some mud on his ear when he spoke to The News Tribune at DuPont City Hall about 11 a.m.

“I’m feeling very lucky for myself and for those who survived,” said Raimondi, who was not hurt.

He called his wife as soon as he got out of the train.

“She had not heard,” he said. “I didn’t want her to hear from the news and worry.”

Raimondi, a train buff, said he once worked as a ticket conductor for Amtrak in St. Paul, Minnesota. When he retired he moved to Gig Harbor to be closer to family.

“Traveling by train is one of the safest ways to travel,” he said. “Things happen. Planes and cars crash, too. It’s very unfortunate.”

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell

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