The interior of downtown Los Angeles’ iconic Union Station where Amtrak’s Coast Starlight departed on time despite the deadly derailment in Washington state. photo by John Schreiber.

The deadly derailment of a fast Amtrak passenger train on its inaugural run in Washington state Monday won’t disrupt Los Angeles rail passengers heading to or from Seattle, Amtrak officials reported.

Amtrak Coast Starlight trains were continuing to operate despite the multi-fatality derailment outside Tacoma, Washington, but the trains to and from Los Angeles were being diverted to an older route to avoid traveling anywhere near the disaster site.

The Coast Starlight is Amtrak’s main train along the coast, and the trip is scheduled to take about 32 hours, although regular delays are not that unusual.

A Coast Starlight train bound for Seattle left on time at 10:10 a.m. Monday from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, according to Amtrak. Also, a southbound Coast Starlight train left Seattle Monday morning bound for Los Angeles, according to a news report out of Seattle.

The 7:40 a.m. derailment occurred on the first day of a new Amtrak route that is part of an $800 million project called the Cascades High-Speed Rail Capital Program.

Because of the derailment, the Coast Starlight route will operate on the previously used tracks, according to Jennifer Bergener of the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency, which works with Amtrak to manage rail service.

About two hours after the derailment, Amtrak officials issued a statement saying, “Amtrak Cascades Train 501, operating from Seattle and Portland, derailed south of Tacoma, Washington. There were approximately 78 passengers and five crew members on board …”

People with questions about their friends and family on the train can call (800) 523-9101, according to Amtrak.

“Service from Seattle to points north and east is continuing to operate. Amtrak Cascades Trains 504 and 509 are canceled. No alternate transportation will be available,” according to Amtrak.

Passenger Chris Karnes told MSNBC that the train derailed while traveling on tracks that are part of a new route in and out of Tacoma.

The southbound train had just passed the city of Dupont and was traveling about 70 mph, Karnes said.

“At a certain point the train started to wobble a little bit and the next thing that we knew we were down in a ditch,” Karnes said. “The train had crumpled.”

Train cars that left the tracks on an overcrossing struck cars and trucks on the freeway below.

All the people killed were aboard the train, authorities said. By late morning, at least six people were believed to have died in the derailment.

–City News Service

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