Happening Now

Rail Passengers Association Board Member Jim Hamre and Member Zack Willhoite Reported Among Fatalities in Amtrak Cascades Derailment

December 19, 2017

Release #17-20

For Immediate Release (17-20)

December 19, 2017

Contact: Xenophon Strategies - (202) 289-4001

Passionate Train Advocates Remembered as Devoted to Family and Friends

Washington D.C. - The rail community is shocked at the loss of two Rail Passengers Association members Jim Hamre and Zack Willhoite, who reports have confirmed are among the three fatalities in the Amtrak derailment that occured yesterday near Tacoma, Wash. Both men were devoted to their family and friends, as well as passionate advocates for passenger railroad and advancing the advocacy work of Rail Passengers Association. While we wait on the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the cause of the accident, the entire Rail Passengers Association membership and staff will mourn their loss. Our deepest sympathies go out to each of their families.

"Jim was among the country's most-respected and effective rail advocates and a good friend and mentor to me. I will miss his counsel, and our community is poorer for his loss," said Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews. “Both Jim and Zack have been advocates of transit and passenger rail for decades, and we can’t thank them enough for their work. Our thoughts are with their families at this time, as they work through this tragedy.”

"Jim was proud of the part that rail advocates played as stakeholders in expanding passenger rail services in the Northwest,” said Rail Passengers Association Chairman Peter LeCody. “Last year he took my wife and me on a tour of the region showing how important rail is to connect us in our daily lives. I will miss my friend Jim."

Jim Hamre was a board member for the Rail Passengers Association, in addition to being a vice president of All Aboard Washington. Jim started work on the Milwaukee Road in the early 1970's while studying at Washington State University. He moved on to work at the Washington State Department of Transportation, and got involved in transportation advocacy in the early 1980's. Jim combined personability and kindness, and paired it with an intricate and detailed knowledge of transit policy and technical insight. This made him an extremely powerful advocate and an inspiration for others.

Zack Willhoite was a member of the Rail Passengers Association, and also on the board of All Aboard Washington, serving as the Director of Information Technology. He was a member of the AAW since 1998 and on its board for 10 years. Zack has been a Pierce Transit employee since 2008.

Rail Passengers Association asks for privacy for the families as they come to terms with this tragedy. In the coming days, our Association will share the best ways to celebrate the lives that were lost.

About the Rail Passengers Association

The Rail Passengers Association is the oldest and largest national organization speaking for the nearly 40 million users of passenger trains and rail transit. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the U.S. Our mission is to work towards a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want. Our work is supported by more than 28,000 individual members nationwide.