Just before being interviewed by KIRO radio this morning, I was told by the caller “You’re about to go live but if you haven’t heard, three fatalities are now being reported.”
No, I hadn’t heard.
One of the first to alert me via text message to this tragedy was our daughter who had left early for work. Shortly before the train derailed, she had passed under that bridge.
Seconds later, I’m on the air. With no time to assimilate what the immensity of this tragedy means to so many families who will suffer now so greatly at what never should have happened, what never can be expected, and those families now having to call a phone number provided by the media to check on their loved ones, I’m asked – as Tillicum Woodbrook Neighborhood Association President – my opinion.
This is my opinion.
On behalf of our tiny community of Tillicum – sometimes called ‘the poorest square mile in all of Pierce County’, a community the focal point of the City of Lakewood’s unsuccessful lawsuit against the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT)’s plan to thrust highspeed passenger trains through the heart of life-congested neighborhoods like ours – our prayers, our support, our grief for those who now must somehow process the incomprehensibility of what even at this moment is unfolding and who will do so for days without end.
Theresa Pfeiffer says
Keep fighting for those marginal folks. Most of us would not want trains going through our neighborhood at those speeds. Well written, David. Feel sick over this and the pain the families and victims must be going through.
Joseph G. Boyle says
Mr. David Anderson,
Well said with proper focus.
Joan Cooley says
It was a hard fought fight, David. We lost to the power of the age old, powerful RR lobby. But the families affected by this tragedy lost so much more, I join our communities grieving for them. Thank you for your we’ll spoken words.
Keep fighting for what is right.
David Wilson says
Now that it is known that the train was going at a speed of 80mph in a 30mph curve zone of the track; it will probably be called an employee/engineer problem and the trains will then continue through Lakewood once they get the new GPS braking sensor system installed.
Prayers for the victims and many thanks and my gratefulness to the First Responder Heroes.
Can the Amtrak engineer be prosecuted for vehicular homicide?
Mandy candler says
This first run of the first day proved tragic beyond words. The loss of life and horrible injuries will not be forgotten. Was it 8 years ago a group of Lakewood citizens met to try to prevent a high speed accident ? Hopefully, all precautions for speed reduction and increased safety measures will be mandated for this route to continue its course. Thank you to first responders and clean up crews.
Ken Karch, PE says
Excellent piece, David.
Only one caveat…your comment about “what never can be expected.” If, in fact, the train was going anywhere near 80, as reported, in a clearly marked 30 mph zone, as reported, then I would argue that it was a “what should have been expected.”
Every first year engineering student in this country takes statics and dynamics courses, which clearly enable one to calculate what would happen in such a situation. If the track was designed years ago for slower trains, and was not “superelevated” to permit slightly (and “slightly” does not mean going from 30 to 80) higher velocities in preparation for higher speed trains (at considerable cost), it would have been clearly evident to any competent engineer that a higher failure risk would ensue. The question to be answered is, how was the decision made to allow such higher speeds, without absolute speed controls.
One of my experiences with a similar situation was a radical one, calculating the degree of curvature and acceleration acceptable on a high speed TACV (tracked air cushion vehicle) and/or MAGLEV (magnetic levitation vehicle) capable of attaining speeds approaching 400 mph in a hollow tube, while avoiding spilling a passenger’s drink.
Finally, a word about the term “engineer,” given to persons responsible for “driving a train.” Unless they have undergone the detailed education and experience needed to secure a professional engineers license, they should not be called “engineers.” I can’t imagine a licensed professional engineer driving a train around a bend at close to three times the speed limit.
Ken Karch, PE
Royal Ward Fletcher says
Right on Ken.. You are good with numbers. Calculate as to how many trips, at a savings of ten minutes a trip, will it take to offset the one hundred eighty million dollar expenditure to create this stupid project. The only thing that is of benefit, is the savings of time for freight trains waiting to go through the tunnel, while an ineffective and non profit entity has the right of way. There are many more factors that could be entered in to the equation, but just the one is enough. Ward
David Wilson says
There was a conductor in training running the train with an engineer, plus a report of a distraction.
All human error. No fault of the new setup.