Jury awards Amtrak Cascades crash victim nearly $6.9M

Kylie Steel, a passenger on the Amtrak Cascades train that crashed nearly four years ago near Dupont, was awarded nearly $6.9 million in a settlement.

Steel suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash and called the jury’s verdict on Tuesday a validation.

The train hit a thirty-mile-per-hour curve going 80. The train derailed and fell onto Interstate Highway 5, killing three passengers.

However, Steel survived the crash.

“I’m really not the person I was before the crash. I’ve had to reorient my life, reorient my passions. I’m essentially just a sliver of the person I was before the injury,” Steel said.

On Dec. 18, 2017, she was riding the train to Portland to spend the holidays with her family.

“I hit my head on the seatback in front of me going about 80 miles per hour, so that will jostle your brain a bit,” Steel told KIRO 7′s Graham Johnson. “I have a lot of relief that it’s finally over and I have a lot of gratitude for the jury for hearing my case and recognizing my brain injury as an injury that is real and valid and has long-lasting effects.”

Amtrak would not comment on the verdict, but Steel’s attorney said Amtrak’s lawyers tried to minimize her injury during the trial.

“Cause it was saying to her, you’re not hurt, we don’t believe you’re hurt. The jury I think thought otherwise,” said James Vucinovich, the plaintiff’s attorney.

The derailment happened on Amtrak Cascade’s inaugural run of the time-saving Point Defiance bypass, during a time when an emergency braking system called positive train control was not operating.

PTC is now activated but the bypass was not used again until just last week.

“I don’t feel safe to be on the train again. I hope that Amtrak has made some changes,” said Steel.

After the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board issued several safety recommendations.

Amtrak and local transportation officials said they have either implemented those recommendations or are continuing to pursue them.