Amtrak CEO calls fatal derailment a ‘wake-up call’

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(CNN)–Amtrak’s co-CEO apologized profusely for the high-speed train derailment that hurled passenger cars onto a freeway, killing three people and injuring 100.

“It’s not acceptable that we are involved in these kinds of accidents. We are terribly sorry to the people that are involved,” Richard Anderson said.

The passenger train derailed Monday after careening around a curve at almost three times the speed limit. It’s still unclear why the train was traveling 80 mph in a 30-mph zone, said National Transportation Safety Board member Bella Dinh-Zarr.Related Content: Train speeding 50 mph over limit before deadly derailment

Adding to the dismay: positive train control, the technology that can automatically slow down a speeding train, wasn’t activated.

Instead, that segment of tracks in DuPont, Washington, had centralized traffic control (CTC), Dinh-Zarr said.

“CTC cannot enforce speed restrictions on a train like PTC can,” she said. “The locomotive was in the process of getting a system of PTC installed but it was not yet functional.”

Now, both victims’ families and officials are perplexed about why the tragedy happened.

“There are a thousand unanswered questions about this right now,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, referring to the accident. “One of the questions is, could that speed control have made a difference? We don’t know that for sure at the moment either.”Original Story: At least 3 dead from Amtrak train derailment in Washington state

Latest developments

— All crew members are hospitalized and the NTSB is setting up interviews with them. “As they are able, we will get more information from them. We want to be respectful of their injuries,” Dinh-Zarr told reporters Tuesday.

— The emergency brake appeared to have been automatically activated, rather than by the engineer during the accident, Dinh-Zarr said.

— Two people had been in the cab in the front locomotive during the crash, she said. The engineer was joined by a conductor who was learning the new route, she said. Amtrak’s Anderson said that is not unusual.

Two of the victims were identified as Jim Hamre and Zack Willhoite, the Rail Passengers Association said. They were riding the first trip on the new service route.

The two friends traveled to ride trains together, CNN affiliate KIRO reported. They were also members of All Aboard Washington, a rail advocacy group in their home state.

“Jim was among the country’s most respected and effective rail advocates and a good friend and mentor to me. I will miss his counsel, and our community is poorer for his loss,” Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews said in a statement. “Both Jim and Zack have been advocates of transit and passenger rail for decades, and we can’t thank them enough for their work.”

Willhoite worked as an IT customer service support specialist for the public transit agency in Pierce County, Washington.

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