Kimberly Fossen / AP
JOPLIN, Mont. – At least three people were killed Saturday afternoon when an Amtrak train between Seattle and Chicago derailed in north-central Montana, an official with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office said.
Dispatcher Starr Tyler told The Associated Press that three people died in the derailment. She didn’t have more details. Amtrak said in a statement that there had been several injuries.
The Empire Builder train derailed around 4 p.m. near Joplin, a town of about 200 residents, Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams said in a statement. The crash site is approximately 150 miles north of Helena and approximately 30 miles from the border with Canada.
The train had around 146 passengers and 16 crew on board, Abrams said.
The train consisted of two locomotives and 10 cars, seven of which derailed, he said.
Megan Vandervest, a train passenger who was going to visit a friend in Seattle, told the New York Times that she was awakened by the derailment.
“My first thought was that we were derailing because, to be honest, I have anxiety and I had heard stories of trains going off the rails,” said Vandervest, from Minneapolis. “My second thought was, it’s crazy. We wouldn’t be derailing. Like, that doesn’t happen.”
She told The Times that the car behind hers was overturned, the one behind that was fully overturned, and the three cars behind that “had completely fallen off the rails and pulled away from the train.”
Speaking from the Liberty County Senior Center, where the passengers were taken, Vandervest said it sounded like “extreme turbulence on a plane.”
Amtrak was working with local authorities to transport injured passengers and safely evacuate all other passengers, Abrams added.
The National Transportation Safety Board will send a 14-member team, including investigators and specialists in railway signals and other disciplines, to investigate the crash, spokesman Eric Weiss said.
Five Amtrak cars derailed around 3:55 p.m. MT, and no other trains or equipment were involved, Weiss said. The train was running on a BNSF Railroad main track at the time, he said.
Photos posted on social media showed several cars on the side. Passengers stood along the tracks, some carrying luggage.
The footage showed sunny skies and it appeared that the accident had occurred along a straight section of track.
Amtrak said that due to the derailment, the Sunday Westbound Empire Builder will end in Minneapolis, and the Sunday Eastbound Empire Builder train will depart Minneapolis.
Other recent Amtrak derailments include:
– April 3, 2016: Two maintenance workers were struck and killed by an Amtrak train traveling over 100 mph in Chester, Pennsylvania. The lead locomotive of the train derailed.
– March 14, 2016: An Amtrak train traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago derailed in southwestern Kansas, derailing five cars and injuring at least 32 people. Investigators concluded that a feed delivery truck struck the track and moved it at least 30 cm before the derailment.
– October 5, 2015: A passenger train from Vermont to Washington, DC derailed when it struck rocks that had fallen onto the track from a ledge. The locomotive and a passenger car spilled onto an embankment, derailing three other cars and injuring seven people.
– May 12, 2015: Amtrak train 188 was traveling at twice the 50 mph speed limit when it entered a tight bend in Philadelphia and derailed. Eight people were killed and more than 200 were injured when the locomotive and four of the train’s seven cars hit the tracks. Several cars overturned and torn apart.