At Least 6 Fatalities as Amtrak Train Derails, Crashes Near JBLM

An Amtrak train derailed near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., early Monday, Dec. 18, 2017, causing "injuries and casualties," according to officials.  Photo by Washington State Patrol Trooper Brooke Bova
An Amtrak train derailed near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., early Monday, Dec. 18, 2017, causing "injuries and casualties," according to officials. Photo by Washington State Patrol Trooper Brooke Bova

An inaugural ride on Amtrak's new line meant to speed train service in Washington state turned deadly Monday after a train carrying more than 80 people derailed outside of Tacoma — causing several train cars to tumble from an overpass onto an interstate highway, officials said.

"Multiple fatalities" were reported after Amtrak train 501 derailed about 7:30 a.m. along Interstate 5 as it was leaving the new Tacoma station, Pierce County Sheriff's Spokesman Ed Troyer said. He did not specify the number of people killed. 

The train was traveling southbound from Seattle when it derailed. 

The accident happened near Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Police previously said several cars were struck by the Amtrak train cars, injuring multiple drivers on the highway. No motorists’ deaths were reported, according to Pierce County officials. 

Amtrak said 78 passengers and five crew members were on board the train, part of its "Cascades" service from Seattle to Portland, Ore. It received reports of passengers and crew members injured that were taken to the hospital. Service for two Amtrak Cascades trains were canceled. 

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A highway camera showed at least one train car toppled onto the road, causing a traffic jam. Photos tweeted by Washington State Patrol Public Information Officer Brooke Bova showed one detached and smashed on the ground. Another car was dangling from the overpass. 

Chris Karnes, who was on the train — three or four cars back from the front — told The Associated Press: "I'm not sure what got hit. I'm not sure what happened." 

Bova told Fox News' "Happening Now" that people are advised to avoid Interstate 5 and that clearing the area will be an “all day” process.

Kaines, the chair of Pierce Transit's advisory board, said on Twitter "The train has derailed. Emergency crews are on the scene. Massive damage. People are hurt." He said the train appeared to have hit a truck, adding that the car was "destroyed." 

Wendy Simmons told Q13 Fox she arrived shortly after the derailment as people were helping the injured.

“First responders actually climbed up into the dangling cars to get people out,” Simmons said. "People were pulling first aid kits out of their cars -- putting jackets on people."

The National Transportation Safety Board said a "go-team" is departing from Washington, D.C., to investigate Monday's derailment. The Federal Railroad Administration also tweeted it has investigators en route to the scene. 

The derailment caused all southbound lanes of Interstate 5 near Mounts Road in Pierce County to be closed, the Washington State Department of Transportation tweeted. Mounts Road crosses over I-5 to the JBLM golf course.

The Washington State Department of Transportation tweeted that drivers should expect long delays and avoid the area.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray tweeted she was "heartbroken by the news." 

Monday was the first day of schedule changes to include two new round trips between Seattle and Portland, according to the Amtrak website. Amtrak train 501 is part of the new route running between Portland and Seattle daily. Washington Department of Transportation spent $800 million on passenger train improvement. 

The southbound lanes of Interstate 5, which see about 60,000 vehicles per day, are expected to be closed for "an extended period," according to the WSDOT.

-- Katherine Lam is a breaking and trending news digital producer for Fox News.
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