New derailment lawsuit alleges Amtrak knew about "electrical system failure"

Three people died and dozens were injured when Amtrak Cascades Train 501 suddenly lurched off the tracks near Dupont on Dec. 18, the route's inaugural run.

Rudolph Wetzel was on his way from Seattle to his farm in Centralia.  Eager to arrive as early as possible, Wetzel had switched his ticket earlier that day from the 7:30 a.m. train to the 6 a.m. train.

As the train approached the curve where it derailed, the 81-year old Wetzel was asleep in his favorite seat for a trip he took multiple times a month; car three, seat 15.

“We all got hurt, and we shouldn’t have been hurt,” he said Thursday.

Wetzel suffered a broken back and extreme internal injuries he claims will shorten his life.  “I was a pretty active guy.  I could walk, I could chop wood and take care of things, run a chainsaw,” he said from his lawyer’s office in Seattle.  “Now I can waddle, I can’t really walk fast.”

Wetzel is suing Amtrak for damages not specified in the federal complaint, which alleges Amtrak launched the train "knowing it had experienced an electrical system failure that day."  According to documents filed in U.S. District Court, "the rear locomotive electrical linkage was not connected or properly linked, which made the rear unit unavailable for additional braking."

“Let’s face it.  What caused that thing to go off the track was excessive speed,” lawyer Jim Vucinovich of Rossi Vucinovich P.C. said.

According to Wetzel, the crash was the closest he's ever come to dying despite being imprisoned in

Yugoslavia after World War II, serving in Korea for the U.S. Army and patrolling the streets of Los Angeles as a police officer.

“I consider myself an extremely lucky person,” Wetzel told a room full of reporters and photographers, but “this is the most horrific thing that I went through.”

When asked to comment about Wetzel’s complaint and the alleged electrical system failure that day,

Marc Magliari of Amtrak responded in an email “Amtrak does not comment on pending litigation and will respond to the court regarding this filing.”

LIVE: A survivor of December’s fatal Amtrak derailment in Dupont is announcing a lawsuit against Amtrak. Read more here >> https://kiro.tv/Derailment KIRO 7’s Amy Clancy is at today’s news conference and is following the lawsuit as it develops for a live report on KIRO 7 News at 5 >> kiro.tv/LiveNews

Posted by KIRO 7 News on Thursday, June 7, 2018

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