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Montana Amtrak Derailment Investigation: Investigators Investigate

The westbound Empire Builder was en route from Chicago to Seattle with 10 cars and two locomotives. It left the tracks Saturday afternoon near Joplin at 4:45 p.m.

Jason Abrams, Amtrak spokesperson, stated that the train carried approximately 141 passengers and 16 crew members. It had two locomotives as well as 10 cars, eight which were derail, and had two locomotives.

The derailment that occurred on a BNSF Railway main line involved only one train and no other equipment. A 14-member team of railroad signal specialists and investigators would investigate the matter. Eric Weiss, spokesperson for NTSB, said that.

According to law enforcement, officials from Amtrak, NTSB and BNSF arrived at the accident site just west of Joplin. The tracks cut through large, golden-brown wheat fields that had been recently harvested. A truckload of gravel, new railroad ties and large cranes was brought along to the tracks running parallel to U.S. Highway 2.

From a distance, you could see several rail cars on their sides.

The accident scene lies approximately 150 miles (241 km) northeast Helena, and 30 miles (48 km) away from the Canadian border.

Bill Flynn, Amtrak CEO, expressed condolences for the victims. He said that the company was working with the NTSB and Federal Railroad Administration, and local law enforcement to share their "senses of urgency" in order to determine the cause.

Flynn stated in the statement that "but, until the investigation has been completed, we will not comment on the accident itself." Amtrak has committed to taking the necessary steps to prevent another accident like this from happening in the future.

The majority of the injured on the train were released after being treated. Five people who sustained more serious injuries were still in the Benefis Health System hospital, Great Falls, Montana. Sarah Robbin, Liberty County emergency service coordinator, stated that five of them were still there. Another spokeswoman confirmed that two were admitted to the ICU.

Robbin stated that emergency crews tried to open the cars with special tools but failed, so they had to manually take out many passengers who couldn't walk.

Melody Sharpton, a spokesperson for Logan Health in Kalispell, Montana said that two more people were there.

Nick Erickson, Liberty County Sheriff, stated that the names of the deceased would not be released until their relatives are notified.

Robbin stated that nearby residents were quick to help after the accident.

She said, "We are so lucky to live where we do and where neighbors help neighbors."

Amtrak stated that it sent emergency personnel as well as other officials to the scene to assist passengers, employees, and local officials. Amtrak said that company officials were "deeply disturbed" by the news.

Due to the derailment Sunday's westbound Empire Builder train from Chicago will arrive in Minneapolis. The eastbound train will depart Minneapolis.

Megan Vandervest, a passenger, told The New York Times that she was awakened after the derailment.

Vandervest of Minneapolis said, "My first thought was that there was a train derailing. To be honest, I have anxiety. I had also heard stories about trains derailing." "I thought that was crazy. We wouldn't be derailing. That doesn't happen."

According to her, the car in front of her was tilted and the one behind it was tipped. The cars behind her were also tilted and the one behind them was tipped over. She said that the cars behind her had "completely fallen off the tracks and were detached" from the train.

Vandervest described it as "extreme turbulence" while speaking from Liberty County Senior Center where some passengers were being taken.

Residents in the vicinity of the crash site rallied quickly to assist.

Rachel Ghekiere, Chester Councilwoman, said that she helped around 50-60 passengers get to school.

She said, "I went to school and assisted with water, food and wiping dirt off of faces." They seemed tired and shaken, but they were happy to be there. Depending on where they were riding the train, some looked more disoriented than others.

She said that Chester's grocery store and nearby religious community were within 5 miles (8 km) of the accident scene.

According to Ghekiere, Ghekiere's husband works at the local emergency service agency and was alerted about the crash.

Social media photos showed rail cars laying on their backs and passengers standing beside the tracks with luggage. It appeared that the accident happened along a straight line of tracks, as evidenced by the images.

Allan Zarembski (director of the University of Delaware’s Railway Engineering and Safety Program) said that he doesn't like to speculate, but believed the derailment was caused by an issue with the track or the equipment or a combination of both.

Zarembski stated that railways have "virtually eliminated major derailments by human error" after the nationwide implementation of positive train control.

Zarembski stated, "I would be shocked if this were a human-factor derailment."

He said that NTSB findings could take several months.

Bob Chipkevich was the NTSB's railroad crash investigator for many years. He said that the agency doesn't yet rule out human error and other possible causes.

Chipkevich stated that "there are still human performance problems examined by NTSB in order to ensure that people doing the job are qualified, rested and doing it correctly."

Chipkevich stated that track conditions are a major cause of train accidents in the past. Chipkevich noted that Amtrak's use of most of the railroad track is owned by freight railroads, and they are responsible for its safety maintenance.

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