MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – An Amtrak passenger train derailed near Joplin, Montana on Saturday with at least three confirmed fatalities, according to the Liberty County sheriff.
“At approximately 4 p.m., Empire Builder train 7/27 derailed five cars near Joplin, MT. There are approximately 147 passengers and 13 crew members onboard, with injuries reported. Amtrak is working with the local authorities to transport injured passengers, and safely evacuate all other passengers,” Amtrak said in a statement.
Several cars tipped over on their sides during the accident. Many of the passengers were taken to nearby Chester High School in Chester, Montana.
“I was actually asleep when the train derailed so I awoke to it derailing,” Megan Vandervest, a passenger from Minneapolis, said. “The first thought I had when I woke up was, ‘OMG, we’re derailing.” And then immediately after I was like, ‘That’s crazy, we’re not derailing.’”
Due to the derailment, Empire Builder trains 7/27 and 8/28 have been cancelled between Minot, ND and Shelby, MT. Westbound Empire Builder train 7 will now end in St. Paul and eastbound Empire Builder train 8 will now reportedly originate in St. Paul.
The Empire Builder operates between Chicago and Seattle, with a stop at St. Paul’s Union Depot. There are a total of six Amtrak stops in Minnesota.
“It was pretty chaotic to be honest, right when we got off, the image of it. You knew there would be injuries but we didn’t see any for ourselves,” Vandervest said. “There were people very concerned about loved ones. Some had passengers, their loved ones, up in coach while they were in sleeper cars, but overall the mood was very disconnected.”