CHESTER (KPAX) — Three people died and dozens of injuries are reported after an Amtrak train derailed in Liberty County along Montana’s Hi-Line on Saturday afternoon.
It happened about three miles west of the town of Joplin. The train consisted of two locomotives and 10 cars, with seven of the cars derailing.
There is no word yet on what caused the derailment.
Amtrak released the following statement, and confirmed that three people died.
“At approximately 4 pm MT, Empire Builder train 7/27 derailed operating near Joplin, MT. There are approximately 146 passengers and 16 crew members onboard, with injuries reported. Individuals with questions about their friends and family aboard this train should call 800-523-9101. Amtrak is working with the local authorities to transport injured passengers, and safely evacuate all other passengers.”
Pictures shared on social media show at least one car completely on its side and several other cars upright or tipped but off the tracks.
A witness described helping passengers exit the derailed cars. Jeremiah Johnson told MTN that ladders were being used to free people and some had to be cut free. “We had to lift a few people out with lots of volunteers and then cut some out…There was one lady in the back whose legs were trapped and was unable to be removed without using a saw (to cut away seats.),” Johnson said.
Johnson described seeing shoulder, head, and neck injuries. He added that his wife assisted with helping passengers as they got off the train.
“Right now, she’s helping out on site and then was kind of checking people’s vitals as they were coming. I brought her to the hospital. They had plenty of help up there so we went to the high school and she started helping get down people’s injuries, names, and documenting any medication they may be taking.”
Johnson estimated there were dozens of people at the high school.
Amtrak also included the following information in its news release:
“As a result of the derailment, Empire Builder trains 7/27 and 8/28 originating on Sat. Sept. 25 are cancelled between Minot, ND (MOT) and Shelby, MT (SBY). Additionally, on Sunday, Sept. 26, westbound Empire Builder train 7 will terminate in Minneapolis, MN (MSP) and eastbound Empire Builder train 8 will originate in Minneapolis, MN (MSP). No substitute transportation is available. Amtrak customers can contact us at 800-872-7245 to obtain additional information about the status of services.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is sending 14 investigators to the site, according to CBS News.
The Amtrak passenger line that runs along the Montana Hi-Line is known as the Empire Builder. It runs between Chicago and Seattle/Portland.