An Amtrak train derailed in Montana on Saturday, killing at least three people and setting off a massive effort to rescue passengers still trapped in the wreckage, authorities said.
The Liberty County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the deaths to The Post, but wasn’t able to estimate the number of people injured.
The Empire Builder, which runs between Chicago and Seattle, had 146 passengers and 16 crew members on board when seven of its 10 cars derailed near Joplin around 4 p.m. on Saturday, Amtrak confirmed in a statement.
All those who had been trapped aboard the train after the crash have been taken off the train, an official with the Liberty County Sheriff’s office said.
The National Transit Safety Board announced on Saturday night that it would be sending a “go-team” to investigate the deadly crash.
Photos circulated on social media showing passengers and responders standing next to the tipped-over train cars along a dirt road and fields.
The small town of Joplin boasts just a population of just a couple of hundred, and is about three hours north of state capital Helena. The heavily rural Liberty County has an estimated population just under 1 million, and is still larger than the state of Rhode Island, according to the latest U.S. census data.
A Spokane-based news director whose brother-in-law is a firefighter in Montana said in a tweet that responders “were dispatched & told to prepare for a large amount of people trapped – or worse.”
Witness Jeremiah Johnson told local outlets that responders used ladders to free people. Others 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 told KRTV.
About 60 passengers were transported to a nearby school in Chester, where they were provided with basic needs, according to Chester Councilwoman Rachel Ghekiere.
“I went to the school and assisted with water, food, wiping dirt off faces,” she said. “They appeared to be tired, shaken but happy that they were where they were. Some looked more disheveled than others, depending where they were on the train.”
The passengers were taken by buses to hotels in nearby Shelby, said Ghekiere, whose husband works for the local emergency services agency and was alerted to the crash.
Megan Vandervest, a passenger who was on her way to visit her friend in Seattle, told The New York Times she couldn’t first believe what was happening when she noticed train cars start to fall off the tracks.
“My first thought was that we were derailing because, to be honest, I have anxiety and I had heard stories about trains derailing,” the Minneapolis native told the paper. “My second thought was that’s crazy. We wouldn’t be derailing. Like, that doesn’t happen.”
US Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mt.) announced on social media that he would monitor the situation as details unfold.
“Tragic news,” he wrote on Twitter. “I am thankful for the first responders already on the scene and praying for the safety of all involved. I am closely monitoring this situation as details emerge.”
With Post wires