People work at the scene of an Amtrak train derailment on Saturday in north-central Montana. Three people were killed, the train agency said. (Kimberly Fossen / via Associated Press)

People work at the scene of an Amtrak train derailment on Saturday in north-central Montana. Three people were killed, the train agency said. (Kimberly Fossen / via Associated Press)

Sheriff’s office: At least 3 killed in Amtrak derailment

The Empire Builder train was running between Seattle and Chicago in in north-central Montana.

Associated Press

JOPLIN, Mont. — At least three people were killed Saturday afternoon when an Amtrak train that runs 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 did not have more details. Amtrak said in a statement that there were multiple injuries.

The Empire Builder train derailed about 4 p.m. near Joplin, a town of about 200, Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams said in a statement. The accident scene is about 150 miles north of Helena and about 30 miles from the border with Canada.

The train had about 146 passengers and 16 crew members onboard, Abrams said.

The train consisted of two locomotives and 10 cars, with seven of those cars derailing, he said.

Megan Vandervest, a passenger on the train 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 about trains derailing,” said Vandervest, who is from Minneapolis. “My second thought was that’s crazy. We wouldn’t be derailing. Like, that doesn’t happen.”

She told the Times that the car behind hers was tilted over, the one behind that was entirely tipped over, and the three cars behind that “had completely fallen off the tracks and were detached from the train.”

Speaking from the Liberty County Senior Center, where passengers were being taken, Vandervest said it felt like “extreme turbulence on a plane.”

Amtrak was working with the 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 railroad signals and other disciplines, to investigate the crash, spokesman Eric Weiss said.

Five Amtrak cars derailed around 3:55 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time and no other trains or equipment were involved, Weiss said. The train was traveling on a BNSF Railroad main track at the time, he said.

The images showed sunny skies, and it appeared the accident occurred along a straight section of tracks.

Amtrak said that because of the derailment, the Sunday westbound Empire Builder will terminate in Minneapolis, and the Sunday eastbound Empire Builder train will originate in Minneapolis.

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