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Rail enthusiasts among victims of Amtrak train tragedy

Two friends and train enthusiasts who had advocated for better rail access were among the three victims of the Amtrak crash south of Seattle, it has emerged.

Jim Hamre, 61, and Zack Willhoite, 35, became some of the first passengers to take the maiden voyage of a faster route between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle.

The two friends had a passion for public transportation and had eagerly awaited the day higher-speed trains could zip through their home turf.

They were among the three people killed when the train, which travelled at 80mph in a 30mph zone, derailed south of Seattle and toppled some cars on a busy road below. Dozens of others were hurt, some seriously.

The Pierce County coroner's office said both men died of severe injuries suffered on the train. Their deaths were ruled as accidents.

The identity of the third man killed in the accident has not yet been released.

Family and friends said they were devastated by the deaths, describing Mr Hamre and Mr Willhoite as devoted rail advocates who were loved by many.

They were both knowledgeable about the technical aspects of trains and had spent their lives backing the Cascade route.

"Yesterday was a moment of great happiness for them, which makes this so heartbreaking," said Carl Fowler, a friend who has worked with Hamre and Willhoite in rail advocacy for years.

He added: "Despite yesterday's tragedy, the Cascade corridor that they built will be their monument."

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