JOPLIN, Mont. — The National Transportation Safety Board announced it is dispatching a team to investigate the cause of a deadly train crash in rural Montana, but there was no cause yet announced by Sunday afternoon, Sept. 26.
Three people died late Saturday afternoon when Amtrak’s Empire Builder left the tracks near Joplin, Montana. The Empire Builder runs daily routes from Chicago to Seattle, with stops in Minnesota and North Dakota, including St. Paul, St. Cloud, Staples, Detroit Lakes, Fargo, Grand Forks, Devils Lake, Rugby, Minot, Stanley and Williston.
It is not known if any passengers from North Dakota or Minnesota are among the fatalities or injured.
The NTSB, via its Twitter feed, said Saturday evening it is “launching a go-team to investigate Saturday’s derailment” and that the team will be based in Great Falls, Mont.
At about 5 p.m. Saturday, the westbound train left the tracks in rural north-central Montana, near the small town of Joplin and about 150 miles north of Helena, Montana. The Billings (Mont.) Gazette reported Sunday that passengers were taken to nearby towns, including Chester and Shelby.
In a release, Amtrak said there were about 141 passengers and 17 crew members onboard the train at the time. The train included two locomotives and 10 cars, eight of which derailed.
At least three people died and there were multiple injuries. Some passengers were trapped aboard the train in the aftermath but were removed by late Saturday, according to reporting from the Reuters news service.
“We are deeply saddened to learn local authorities are now confirming that three people have lost their lives as a result of this accident. There are also reported injuries among the passengers and crew members traveling on the train,” Amtrak wrote in a statement on its website. “Amtrak is working with the local authorities to transport those who were injured to medical care, and to safely evacuate everyone else at the scene. Our Incident Response Team has been initiated, and we are sending emergency personnel and Amtrak leadership to the scene to help support our passengers, our employees and their families with their needs. Individuals with questions about their friends and family aboard this train should call 800-523-9101.”
Also from Amtrak came details of schedule changes due to the crash.
Specifically, Amtrak announced, “westbound Empire Builder train 7/27, which departed Chicago on Sept. 25, is canceled between Minot, North Dakota, and Shelby, Montana. Eastbound Empire Builder train 8, which departed Seattle on Sept. 25 and Empire Builder train 28, which departed Portland on Sept. 25, are also canceled between Shelby and Minot.
“Westbound Empire Builder 7/27 trains scheduled to depart Chicago between Sept. 26-28 will terminate at St. Paul-Minneapolis. Eastbound Empire Builder train 8, scheduled to depart Seattle Sept. 26-28, will not operate between Seattle and St. Paul-Minneapolis. Empire Builder train 28, departing Portland between Sept. 26-28, will not operate between Portland and St. Paul-Minneapolis. No substitute transportation is currently available. Amtrak customers can contact us at 800-872-7245 to obtain additional information about the status of services.”