At least three people were killed and 50 injured when an Amtrak train derailed in Montana on Saturday afternoon, sparking a backlash from rescuers who rushed to get passengers out of the vehicle.
Amtrak said five cars on the Empire Builder train derailed at 4 p.m., local time. “There were reports of injuries,” Amtrak said in a statement, adding that about 17 passengers and one crew member were on board.
The Liberty County Sheriff’s Office said three deaths have been confirmed.
Hill County, Montgomery Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Amanda Frickel said in an interview that “more than 50 people” were injured.
Mrs Frickel said the train heading west derailed outside Monte’s Joplin about 200 miles north of Helena.
He said rescuers from six counties were responding to the scene and five hospitals were ready to pick up injured passengers. He said there are several medical helicopters parked there.
“Everyone alive has been pulled out of the rubble,” Mrs. Frickel said.
Officers evacuated the survivors to two separate locations and counted the heads. Emergency responders planned to keep people in hotels if they needed treatment.
“Every county in the neighborhood is helping,” said Montgomery Tool County Sheriff Donna Whitt.
Amtrak said in a statement that it was “working with local authorities to transport the injured passengers and evacuate all other passengers safely.”
Megan Vandervest, who was on her way to visit a friend in Seattle, boarded a train from Minneapolis on Friday night, where she lives.
On Saturday afternoon, he was asleep in the first car when he woke up.
“My first thought was that we were derailing because, to be honest, I had concerns and I had heard stories of trains derailing,” Mrs. Vandervest said. “My second thought was that it was crazy. We will not be derailed. As such, it is not. ”
He was able to figure it out soon. The car he was in was completely on track.
But the car behind him tilted, one of which overturned completely, and the three cars behind him “completely fell off the track and were detached from the train,” he said.
Speaking from Liberty County Senior Center, where passengers were being picked up, Mrs. Vandervest said she felt lucky that she and the three others who were with her were not injured.
In his car, he said, it seemed like “extreme unrest on the plane.”
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said Montana Highway Patrol soldiers were among the rescuers. “We pray for the safety of all the passengers and crew on board,” he said.
Karen Jelly, who works at the Holland and Bonin Funeral Home in Howre, Mant, said funeral authorities are waiting for a horrific phone call from authorities. “It will be very bad when we get that phone call,” he said.
Mrs. Jelly, who moved to Haver from Wyoming nine years ago, said the area is very welcoming.
He said the community “gathers around people when the situation is bad.” Now, he said, “it’s going to be damaged by this memory.”
Although Amtrak train derailments are rare, there have been fatal accidents in recent years.
In 2018, three people died after an Amtrak train in South Carolina traveled on the wrong track and collided with a parked freight train. That same year, a train carrying Republican members of Congress collided with a garbage truck in rural Virginia, killing one passenger in the truck.
In 2015, an Amtrak train traveling at more than 100 miles per hour doubled its speed limit, closing a curve in Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring more than 200.
Andres R. Martinez contributed to the report.