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At least six are dead after a train plunged off a bridge onto a Washington interstate

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Updated December 18, 2017 11:55 AM EST

A southbound Amtrak train plunged off a bridge onto Interstate 5 south of Tacoma Monday morning, killing at least six people and injuring scores of others, our affiliate KOMO reported.

"We have fatalities and casualties," said Detective Ed Troyer of the Pierce County Sheriff's Department. "This is a regional mass casualty response."

The Associated Press reported at least six dead. Troyer said all the dead are on the train, which derailed at 7:40 a.m. Several cars and trucks were hit by train cars, Troyer said.

Amtrak train derails, falls onto freeway in Washington state

A total of 77 patients were taken to hospitals in Pierce and Thurston counties, said Cary Evans, communications and government affairs director of CHI Franciscan Health.

Four have the most severe injuries.

Among the hospitals patients are being taken to are St. Joseph's, St. Claire's, St. Anthony's and Tacoma General.

RELATED: The mayor of Lakewood, Washington, predicted deadly accidents from high-speed trains

"We had just passed the city of DuPont and maybe two or three minutes after that and we felt a little bit of wobbling and then the next thing that we knew we were being catapulted into the seats in front of us and we could hear the train derailing and metal crunching," said Chris Karns. "There were people screaming -- everything was dark. We had to kick out the window in order to get off the train."

All southbound lanes of Interstate 5 are closed south of Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Motorists are being warned to avoid the area.

Troyer said southbound I-5 is "closed everywhere" and that stuck cars will be moved off the freeway. Southbound lanes of the freeway are expected to be closed for the rest of the day, according to the State Patrol.

"I was just shocked," said Peter Zimmerman of Olympia. "I couldn't believe it. It was like something out of a movie."

Motorists said they drove up to find a train car hanging off the bridge, and dozens of Amtrak passengers stranding along the freeway. Motorists on both sides of the freeway began to help them.

State transportation officials say the train derailed near Mounts Road, about 40 miles south of Seattle.

The National Transportation Safety board is sending a special team to investigate the crash.

Amtrak officials said the train was the No. 501, which operates between Seattle and Portland. A total of 78 passengers and five crew members were aboard the train at the time of the crash.

The train had just begun using a new high-speed route Monday morning. Lakewood city oficials had earlier expressed fears that the new route would cause serious accidents.

Amtrak service south of Seattle is temporarily suspended. Service from Seattle to points north and east is continuing to operate.

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