Investigators probe Amtrak derailment that killed 3 – The Denver Post – Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado 2021-09-26 14:06:07 –

Amy Beth Hanson and Anita Snow

Joplin, Mon. (AP) —Federal officials sent a team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board to the Amtrak derailment site in north-central Montana, killing three and hospitalizing seven on Sunday, officials said.

On the way from Chicago to Seattle, the westbound Empire Builder left the railroad tracks near about 200 towns, Joplin, around 4 pm on Saturday with two locomotives and ten cars.

According to Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams, the train carries about 141 passengers and 16 crew members, with two locomotives and ten cars, eight of which have derailed.

A team of 14 members, including rail signal investigators and experts, investigated the cause of the derailment on the main track of BNSF Railway, which does not include other trains or equipment. Said Eric Weiss, a spokesman for the NTSB.

The accident site is about 150 miles (241 kilometers) northeast of Helena and about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the Canadian border.

According to Sara Robin, Liberty County Emergency Services Coordinator, most of the train riders were treated and released due to injuries, while five more seriously injured were at Benefis Health Systems Hospital in Great Falls, Montana. Remained in. Another spokeswoman said the two were in the ICU.

The other two were at Logan Health, a hospital in Kalispell, Montana, said spokeswoman Melody Sharpton.

Liberty County Sheriff Nick Ericsson said the names of the dead would not be disclosed until relatives were notified.

Robin said that nearby residents were in a hurry to provide help when the derailment occurred.

“We are very lucky to be able to live in a place where our neighbors can help them,” she said.

Amtrak said it had dispatched emergency personnel and other personnel to the scene to assist passengers, employees and local civil servants. It said company officials were “deeply sad” to learn of the death.

Due to the derailment, Sunday westbound Empire Builders from Chicago will end in Minneapolis and eastbound trains will depart in Minneapolis.

Passenger Megan Vandervest told the New York Times that he was awakened by the derailment.

“To be honest, I was worried and heard that the train was derailing, so I first thought it was derailing,” said Vandervest of Minneapolis. “My second idea was that it was crazy. We never derail. It’s just like it doesn’t happen.”

She told the Times that the car behind her was tilted, the car behind her had fallen, and the three cars behind her had “completely fallen off the railroad tracks and separated from the train.”

Speaking from the Liberty County Senior Center, where some passengers were taken, Vandervest said it felt like “extreme turbulence in an airplane.”

Residents of the community near the crash site immediately mobilized and assisted.

Chester Councilor Rachel Gequier said she and others helped about 50 to 60 passengers brought to school.

“I went to school and helped wipe off water, food and dirt on my face,” she said. “They looked tired and upset, but they were happy to be where they were. Some people seemed more disturbed than others, depending on where they were on the train. I was there. “

She said a grocery store in Chester, about five miles (8 km) from the derailment, and a nearby religious group provided food.

Passengers were taken by bus to a nearby Shelby hotel, said Gequier, whose husband was on a local paramedic and was warned of a crash.

Social media photos showed that there was a railroad car next to it, passengers were standing next to the railroad tracks, and some were carrying luggage. The image shows a clear sky, and the accident appeared to have occurred along the straight section of the railroad track.

Allan Zarembski, director of rail engineering and safety programs at the University of Delaware, said he didn’t want to speculate, but suspected that the derailment was due to problems with railroad tracks, equipment, or a combination of both.

According to Zalembusky, the railroad “virtually eliminated” major derailments due to human error after implementing aggressive train control nationwide.

“I would be surprised if this was a human-induced derailment,” said Zarembusky.

He added that the NTSB’s findings could take months.

Bob Chipkevic, who oversaw the investigation of the railroad accident at the NTSB for several years, said the agency does not currently rule out human error and other potential causes.

“There are still human performance issues investigated by the NTSB to ensure that the people at work are qualified, resting and doing it properly,” said Chipkevich.

Mr. Chipkevic said track conditions have historically been a major cause of train accidents. He said most of the tracks used by Amtrak are owned by freight railroads and rely on those companies to maintain safety.

Other recent Amtrak derailments include:

— April 3, 2016: Two maintenance workers were attacked and killed on an Amtrak train over 100 mph in Chester, Pennsylvania. The leading engine of the train derailed.

— March 14, 2016: An Amtrak train from Los Angeles to Chicago derailed in southwestern Kansas, leaving five cars off the railroad tracks and injuring at least 32 people. Investigators concluded that a cattle feed truck collided with the truck and moved it at least one foot before the derailment.

— October 5, 2015: A passenger train from Vermont to Washington, DC derailed when it hit a rock that fell from a shelf onto a railroad track. Locomotives and passenger cars spilled from the embankment, three other cars derailed, and seven were injured.

— May 12, 2015: Amtrak Train 188 entered a sharp curve in Philadelphia and derailed, driving at twice the speed limit of 50 mph. Eight people were killed and more than 200 were injured when four of the seven locomotive and train passenger cars jumped over the railroad tracks. Several cars have fallen and fall apart.


Snow was reported by Phoenix. Contributed by Associated Press writer Tom Christer of Detroit, Martha Belisle of Seattle, and Michelle Liu of Columbia, South Carolina.

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