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Two men killed in Washington train derailment remembered as passionate railroad advocates

Two men who died when a train derailed over Interstate 5 south of Tacoma are being remembered as passionate passenger...

Posted: Dec. 20, 2017 5:55 PM
Updated: Dec. 20, 2017 5:55 PM

Two men who died when a train derailed over Interstate 5 south of Tacoma are being remembered as passionate passenger railroad advocates.

The Rail Passengers Association reported Tuesday that Jim Hamre and Zack Willhoite, both members of the association, were among the three people killed in Monday morning's derailment in DuPont.

"Both men were devoted to their family and friends, as well as passionate advocates for passenger railroad and advancing the advocacy work of RPA. While we wait on the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation into the cause of the accident, the entire Rail Passengers Association membership and staff will mourn their loss. Our deepest sympathies go out to each of their families," according to a statement from the association.

Jim Mathews, Rail Passengers Association president, said Hamre is one of the most respected railroad advocates in the country.

FOX 12 spoke with a friend of Hamre's and fellow train enthusiast, Dennis Lytton, who spoke highly of him.

"A lot of the things that you see for trains now, you know, in Sound Transit up in Seattle and the TriMet Light Rail, and of course, Cascade Amtrak services, a lot of that is there because of Jim's advocacy," said Lytton. "That's his legacy and it's sad that he died doing what he loved."

Willhoite had worked at Pierce Transit since 2008. Both men were on the board of All Aboard Washington.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the derailment of Amtrak Cascades Train 501, which was heading from Seattle to Portland.

Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday that the NTSB is "well on their way" in the investigation.

"Our hearts are with all of the families," he said of the victims. "We have confidence that we will get to the bottom of what caused this horrific tragedy."

More than 70 people were taken to the hospital, at least 10 with serious injuries. Five vehicles and two semis on southbound I-5 were hit by the derailed train.

Southbound I-5 was expected to be closed in the area until at least Wednesday morning and possibly for several days.

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