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2 rail enthusiasts killed in train derailment

Posted at 6:15 AM, Dec 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-20 06:15:03-05

TACOMA, WA (KCPQ/CNN) - Two of the three passengers who died in an Amtrak train crash on Monday were rail enthusiasts.

Steven Rosenow said he wasn't surprised his friend, 35-year-old Zack Willhoite, was riding the maiden voyage of the Amtrak train that derailed Monday morning.

"It said 'Pierce Transit worker identified,' and my heart sank," Rosenow said. "Started crying, and right then and there - it was like way too soon he died too quick."

Willhoite is one of three people confirmed dead after the train's cars went off the tracks, some of them hurtling off an overpass to the interstate below. Willhoite's friend, 61-year-old Jim Hamre, died too.

"Zack and Jim? I thought of them more as a pair than individuals," said Harvey Brown, a member of the All Aboard Washington Advocacy Group; Willhoite served as director of information technology and Hamre was vice president.

Pierce Transit said Willhoite served as a customer service support specialist, and was admired by his colleagues.

Hamre's friends said he retired a few years ago as a civil engineer.

"I think Jim and Zack would want this to be an opportunity to learn about the safety issues," Brown said.

Friends said their destiny was to help others understand the mechanics and memory of the rail system.

"He was very sentimental," said Rosenow. "He had a lot of respect for the past."

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