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Amtrak train derailment victim was ‘rail enthusiast, transit, and employee

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Amtrak train traveling at high speed when it derailed

Claudia Cowan reports about the deadly crash.

A transit worker described as a “rail enthusiast” was one of the three people killed on Monday when an Amtrak train in Washington state derailed during her first ride on a new route, leaving more than 70 people injured as investigators search for clues about the reason for the celebratory trip turned out to be fatal.

Zack Willhoite, a Pierce Transit employee, was killed on Monday when the Amtrak train 501, carrying 85 passengers and crew members, derailed from an overpass on Interstate 5 just around 7:40 pm after the pull-out of the new Tacoma station, Chris Karnes, chairman of Pierce transit of the Advisory Board, tweeted on Tuesday. The transit agency also confirmed the death.

“It is heartbreaking to hear that @PierceTransit employee and railway enthusiast Zack Willhoite did not survive the derailment,” Karnes wrote. “He helped us advisory committee with THE theme, and behind the scenes, he was a writer and advocate for a better transit for everyone. He will be missed.”

It is heartbreaking to hear that @PierceTransit employee and railway enthusiast Zack Willhoite did not survive the derailment. He helped us advisory committee with THE theme, and behind the scenes, he was a writer and advocate for a better transit for everyone. He will be missed.

— Chris Karnes ? (@TacomaTransit) 19 December 2017

Willhoite was a IT customer service support specialist and had been working with Pierce Transit since 2008, the agency said in a statement.

“The entire Pierce Transit team was deeply saddened to hear that one of our employees was a victim of the Dec. 18 Amtrak train accident,” the statement read. “He has always appreciated and admired by his colleagues, and played an important role in our agency. He will be sincerely missed.”

Here is a @PierceTransit statement about the unfortunate death of our colleague in the Amtrak accident from yesterday: https://t.co/cSZXYXfPWF

— Pierce Transit (@PierceTransit) 19 December 2017

“Our thoughts are with Zack’s family, as well as the families of the other victims during this very difficult time,” the agency concluded.

The two other victims named have not been released.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Monday night, the Amtrak train is 80 km per hour on a 30 km / h when it derailed along a curve, allowing railcars to fall on the highway and smash into the vehicles below. A total of 13 train cars jumped the tracks. They were removed Tuesday morning.

More than 70 people were taken to the hospital, 10 of them with serious injuries. The engineer, whose name was not released, was bleeding from the head after the wreck, and both eyes were swollen shut, according to the uk audio.

Several train cars fell over the viaduct and the Interstate 5 in Washington state on Monday.

(AP photo)

LOCAL WASHINGTON MAYOR FEARED DEADLY ACCIDENTS WEEKS BEFORE THE AMTRAK DERAILMENT

Train passenger Emma Shafer found himself in an angle of 45 degrees, staring at the chairs in front of her that had come loose and turned around.

“It felt strangely quiet after the actual crash,” she said. “Then there was people screaming because their leg was in the war…I don’t know if I actually heard the sirens, but they were there. A man was like, ‘Hey, I’m Robert. We get you out of here.'”

The NTSB chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr said that a team of researchers will be interviewing the engineer and any witnesses to figure out what exactly happened during the ride.

“We ask the people to remember everything they can…the Human memory begins to fade. We just want to know exactly what happened and what did,” Dinh-Zarr said. “We will also be at our own look at training records, ops manuals to see what the policies are for this type of run.”

TRUMP: AMTRAK DERAILMENT SHOWS NEED FOR INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN

Monday was the first day the train was on a new bypass route between Seattle and Portland, that is made with the renovation of the freight tracks along the major interstate. The $180.7 million project aimed at speeding up the service through the work of an old route that had a number of bends, single-track tunnels and freight transport.

But just two weeks before the crash, Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson expressed his concerns about the new route, saying pedestrians and cars were too close to the trains.

“It is virtually inevitable that someone is going to die, that would not be killed otherwise,” Anderson said. “This is unacceptable.”

Fox News’ Shira Bush and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Katherine Lam is a breaking and trending news digital producer for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter via @bykatherinelam

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