Amtrak train derailment victims identified as a transit worker, rail-lawyer


Amtrak train traveling at high speed when it derailed

Claudia Cowan reports about the deadly crash.

A transit worker and a man described as a “rail advocate” were among the three people killed when an Amtrak train in Washington state derailed during her first ride on a new route Monday, 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, and Jim Hamre, a member of the rail passengers Association, were killed 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, the organization announced.

Hamre and Willhoite were both a part of the rail Passengers Association and was described as “the lawyers of the transit and passenger rail for decades.”

“Jim was one of the most respected and effective rail advocates and a good friend and mentor for me. I will miss his council, and our community is poorer for his loss,” rail passengers Association President Jim Mathews said in a statement. “Both Jim and Zack are in favour of a transit, and passenger rail for decades, and we can’t thank them enough for their work. Our thoughts are with their families at this time, as they work through this tragedy.”

Chris Karnes, chairman of Pierce transit of the Advisory Board, called Willhoite a “railway enthusiast.” The organization says Willhoite served as the director of information technology for All Aboard Washington.

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

“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.”

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 sincerely be missed. Our thoughts are with Zack’s family, as well as the families of the other victims during this very difficult time.”

Here is a @PierceTransit statement about the unfortunate death of our colleague in the Amtrak accident from yesterday:

— Pierce Transit (@PierceTransit) 19 December 2017

Hamre also served as vice-president of All Aboard Washington. He worked at the Washington State Department of Transportation, and was involved in the transportation of advocacy in the early 1980s, according to the rail passengers Association.

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. The authorities began to remove the train cars Tuesday morning. They announced that the removal can take days and advised commuters to plan ahead as the Interstate 5 remains closed.

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)

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.”


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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