At least 3 killed after Amtrak train derails in Montana: sheriff’s office

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Joplin, Mont. An Amtrak train running between Seattle and Chicago derailed in north-central Montana on Saturday afternoon, killing at least three people, a Liberty County Sheriff’s Office official said.

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Dispatcher Star Tyler told The Associated Press that three people died in the derailment. He didn’t have more details. Amtrak said in a statement that there were multiple injuries.

Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams said in a statement that the Empire Builder train derailed at around 4 p.m. near Joplin, a city with a population of about 200. The scene of the accident is about 150 miles (241 kilometers) north of Helena and about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the border with Canada.

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Abrams said about 146 passengers and 16 crew members were on board the train.

He said the train had two locomotives and 10 cars, out of which seven cars derailed.

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Megan Vanderwest, a passenger on the train who was visiting a friend in Seattle, told The New York Times that she had woken up from the derailment.

“My first thought was that we were derailing, to be honest, I’m worried and I’ve heard stories of trains derailing,” said Vanderwest, who lives in Minneapolis. “My second thought was he’s crazy. We won’t get derailed. Like, it doesn’t happen.”

She told the Times that the car behind her was tilted, the car behind her was completely tilted, and that the three cars behind her had “completely fallen off the tracks and separated from the train.”

Speaking from the Liberty County Senior Center, where the passengers were being taken, VanderWest said it felt like “extreme turbulence in the plane.”

Abrams said Amtrak was working with local officials to move the injured passengers and evacuate all other passengers.

Spokesman Eric Weiss said the National Transportation Safety Board would send a 14-member team, including investigators and experts from rail signals and other subjects, to investigate the accident.

Weiss said five Amtrak cars derailed at around 3:55 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time and no other trains or equipment were involved. He said the train was traveling on the BNSF Railroad main track at that time.

Several cars are seen beside them in the pictures posted on social media. Passengers were standing on the side of the track, carrying some luggage.

The images showed sunny skies, and the accident appeared to have occurred along a straight section of tracks.

Amtrak said that due to the derailment, Sunday the westbound Empire Builder train would end in Minneapolis, and Sunday the eastbound Empire Builder train would start in Minneapolis.

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Associated Press Tom Crischer contributed to this report.

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