DUPONT (WASHINGTON POST, NYTIMES, AFP) - Passengers who escaped from the wreckage of a deadly train derailment on Monday (Dec 18) in Washington state during its inaugural run on a faster route from Seattle to Portland, Oregon, described harrowing scenes of death and destruction.
Mr Chris Karnes, a passenger, said the train was approaching a curve before it came off the tracks.
"It seemed like we were reaching sort of a bend in the tracks and all of a sudden we were slammed into the seats in front of us," he told CBS News. "And then the car careened down an embankment and came to a stop. After that happened we could hear and feel the cars crumpling and breaking apart."
Mr Karnes, who was in a car toward the front of the train, said he and other passengers had to kick out a window to get out.
Passengers had visible injuries - "cuts, people bleeding," he said. "I did see one person who was laying on the ground and not moving."
He said military police, firefighters and medics flooded the scene. In his rail car, he said the passenger load was "relatively light".
"It felt like the end of the world, and I was standing amid the wreckage," said Emma Shafer, 20, a modern dance student who was napping aboard the train with her shoes off when it derailed.
She found herself in a coach dangling at a steep angle toward the highway - the man behind her yelling, his legs pinned, while a parent trapped with a baby in a restroom banged on the door for help getting out.
Mr Paul Woodbury, 29, who was in the sixth car of the train when it derailed, described a chaotic scene, with severely injured people on the ground and screams piercing the air as he climbed out of the wreckage.
Once outside, in the cool morning mist, "people stood around, shellshocked," he said, until emergency workers came to get them.
Other survivors told local media about picking through broken glass and twisted metal, struggling to pry out windows to escape, and using the flashlight function on their cellphones to see in the ruined, darkened coaches.
Witnesses told of motorists leaving their vehicles on the highway to help pull people from the wreckage.
US President Donald Trump said the accident underscored the need to invest in infrastructure. "Seven trillion dollars spent in the Middle East while our roads, bridges, tunnels, railways (and more) crumble! Not for long!" he tweeted.