At least three people died Saturday while several other passengers were injured after five Amtrak train carriages derailed on the north-central Montana side, an officer at the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office said.
Operator Starr Tyler told The Associated Press that three people died in the incident. It has no further details. Amtrak said in a statement that there were multiple injuries.
The Empire Builder train derailed at 4 p.m. local time near Joplin, a city of 200 people, Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams said in a statement. The crash site was 241 kilometers north of the city of Helena, and about 48 kilometers from the Canadian border.
The train was carrying about 147 passengers and 13 crew, Abrams said.
Megan Vandervest, one of the passengers who boarded the train to visit friends in Seattle, told The New York Times that she was awakened by the incident.
“My first thought was that we were derailed, because, to be honest, I was anxious and had heard stories of train derailments,” said Vandervest, who is from Minneapolis. “Then I thought it was crazy. There’s no way we’d slip. Nothing like that would happen.”
He told the New York Times that the car behind him tilted, while the car behind him even toppled over, and the other three cars behind the overturned car “literally fell off the rails and off the train tracks.”
Speaking from the Libery County Elderly Center, where the passengers were evacuated, Vandervest said it felt like “extreme turbulence on a plane”
Amtrak is working with local authorities to transport the injured passengers and evacuate other passengers, Abrams added.
Photos circulating on social media showed several of the carriages toppled over. Passengers were seen standing along the tracks, some carrying suitcases.
The photos show a clear sky, and it appears that the accident occurred on a straight track. [rd/ah]