Investigators Want To Know What Caused An Amtrak Train To Derail In Montana

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Cars from an Amtrak train that derailed rest near a train signal near Joplin, Mont. The westbound Empire Builder was en route to Seattle from Chicago with two locomotives and 10 cars.

Ted S. Warren/AP


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Ted S. Warren/AP


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At Least 3 People Killed In Amtrak Derailment In Montana

Passenger Jacob Cordeiro from Rhode Island was traveling with his father to Seattle to celebrate his college graduation.

«I was in one of the front cars and we got badly jostled, thrown from one side of the train to the other,» he told MSNBC. He said the train car left the tracks near a switch where two tracks narrow to one but did not fall over.

«I’m a pretty big guy and it picked me up from my chair and threw me into one wall and then threw me into the other wall,» Cordeiro said.

Railroad safety expert David Clarke, director of the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Tennessee, said the two locomotives and two cars at the front of the train reached the switch and continued on the main track, but the remaining eight cars derailed. He said it was unclear whether some of the last cars moved onto the second track.

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This aerial view taken Sunday, shows part of an Amtrak train that derailed in north-central Montana Saturday that killed multiple people and left others hospitalized, officials said. The westbound Empire Builder was en route to Seattle from Chicago, with two locomotives and 10 cars, when it left the tracks about 4 p.m. Saturday.

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Larry Mayer/AP


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Railways have «virtually eliminated» major derailments by human error after the implementation of positive train control nationwide, Zarembski said.

Matt Jones, a BNSF Railway spokesman said at a news conference that the track where the accident occurred was last inspected on Thursday.

A 14-member National Transportation Safety Board team including investigators and railroad signal specialists will be looking into the cause of the accident on a BNSF Railway track, NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said.

Law enforcement on Sunday said the officials from the NTSB, Amtrak and BNSF were at the accident scene just west of Joplin, where the tracks cut through vast, golden brown wheat fields that were recently harvested. Several large cranes were brought to the tracks that run roughly parallel to U.S. Highway 2, along with a truckload of gravel and new railroad ties.

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In this photo provided by Kimberly Fossen, people work at the scene of an Amtrak train derailment on Saturday in north-central Montana. Multiple people were injured when the train that runs between Seattle and Chicago derailed Saturday, the train agency said.

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In this photo provided by Kimberly Fossen, people work at the scene of an Amtrak train derailment on Saturday in north-central Montana. Multiple people were injured when the train that runs between Seattle and Chicago derailed Saturday, the train agency said.

Kimberly Fossen/AP

The site is about 150 miles (241 kilometers) northeast of Helena and about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the Canadian border.

Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn expressed condolences to those who lost loved ones and said the company is working with the NTSB, Federal Railroad Administration and local law enforcement, sharing their «sense of urgency» to determine what happened.

Because of the derailment, Sunday’s westbound Empire Builder from Chicago was terminating in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the eastbound train was originating in Minnesota.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte said BNSF was readying replacement track for when the NTSB gives the go-head. «BNSF has assured me they can get the line up and running in short order,» he said.

Most of those on the train were treated and released for their injuries, but five who were more seriously hurt remained at the Benefis Health System hospital in Great Falls, Montana, said Sarah Robbin, Liberty County emergency services coordinator. Two were in the intensive care unit, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Another two people were at Logan Health, a hospital in Kalispell, Montana, spokeswoman Melody Sharpton said.

Liberty County Sheriff Nick Erickson said the names of the dead would not be released until relatives are notified.

  • amtrak crash
  • Montana
  • Amtrak

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