An Amtrak train derailment in north-central Montana on Saturday resulted in the deaths of at least three people and left many more injured, according to the Associated Press.
The train, which runs between Seattle and Chicago, derailed Saturday afternoon near the small Montana town of Joplin, Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams said in a statement. It was said to be carrying more than 140 passengers.
As far as the death toll, Liberty County sheriff’s dispatcher Starr Tyler told the press that just three people were confirmed dead at the time. Many other passengers had been taken to the hospital as a result of the derailment, but their statuses are unknown at the time of this writing.
Getting reports of an Amtrak derailment near Havre, Montana. This is the Empire Builder that comes through Spokane on the way to Seattle. These pictures are from a passenger; working to get more info. pic.twitter.com/qCvx4I45mr
— Melissa Luck ☘ (@MelissaKXLY4) September 25, 2021
According to Amtrak, the “Empire Builder” train was carrying 141 passengers and 16 crew members at the time of the derailment, and the train consisted of two locomotives and 10 passenger cars.
As can be seen in a number of images of the catastrophe that were posted to social media, the derailment appeared to have occurred on a straight set of tracks, and the weather, according to the images, was clear and sunny, raising further questions on how the incident could have occurred.
“I would be surprised if this was a human-factor derailment,” Allan Zarembski, director of the University of Delaware’s Railway Engineering and Safety Program, said, according to the AP.
He noted that modern technology has virtually eliminated derailments caused by human error, adding that he’s almost certain the crash was caused by equipment or a problem with the train track in that particular stretch.
A number of passengers who weren’t immediately taken to the hospital reacted to the shocking derailment to various news outlets, including Megan Vandervest, who was on her way to visit a friend in Seattle.
“My first thought was that we were derailing because, to be honest, I have anxiety and I had heard stories about trains derailing,” Vandervest said. “My second thought was that’s crazy. We wouldn’t be derailing. Like, that doesn’t happen.”
Vandervest described the moment she felt the train begin to derail, describing the feeling as similar to “extreme turbulence on a plane.”
Locals from the nearby town reportedly rushed to the scene to provide comfort, food, and water while first-responders took injured passengers to nearby hospitals.