Amtrak Train Derailment in Montana Under Investigation By NTSB

Federal transportation officials have launched an investigation into a fatal Amtrak train derailment, which occurred in Montana on Saturday evening, resulting in at least three deaths and more than 50 injuries.

According to a September 26 press release, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has dispatched a team of 14 investigators to the scene of the Amtrak train derailment to determine the cause of the crash, which derailed eight of the ten passenger cars.

At approximately 4:00pm on Saturday, September 25, Amtrak Empire train 7/27 carrying 141 passengers and 17 crew members was traveling westbound from Chicago to Seattle when eight of the ten cars derailed in a remote area of Joplin, Montana, with at least one of the cars flipping completely on its side, the NTSB reports.

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First responders to the scene of the crash worked to evacuate the derailed cars and transport dozens of injured passengers to Havre, Shelby, Great Falls and Fort Benton Hospitals, while those who were in critical condition were flown for treatment to nearby hospitals.

NTSB issued an update on the crash Sunday evening, confirming well over 50 passengers have been treated for injuries and at least three individuals died due to severe injuries sustained from the derailment. Officials announced some of those who have received medical treatment and released have been placed in nearby hotels.

The agency’s 14-person Incident Response Team will work with Amtrak leadership and local authorities to determine to the cause of crash, which at this time is still unknown.

Officials announced that Jim Southworth, who has more than 25 years of experience in rail investigations, will be the lead investigator, and will be accompanied by colleagues with expertise in rail operations, mechanical, human performance, railroad tracks, signal systems, recorders, survival factors and family assistance.

The investigation is anticipated to last at least seven days and the NTSB expects to hold a media briefing on the derailment later today to provide updates on the situation.

Amtrak also issued a press release on Saturday, indicating it was sending its own incident response team, which would work with the NTSB investigators.

“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,” Amtrak officials stated. “We have a team on the ground to fully support the NTSB as they investigate the cause of the derailment.”

The train derailment adds to the growing annual occurrences of trains coming off of the tracks due to speeding, lack of repairs, or lack of safety equipment applied to the deteriorating railways across the United States.

In 2018, a Red Line subway train carrying over 60 passengers through Washington D.C. Metro system derailed after hitting a broken set of rails, sending multiple cars off the track.

In December 2017, at least three people were killed and more than 100 were hospitalized after a new Amtrak Cascade train derailed in Seattle, Washington, while crossing a highway overpass, causing more than a dozen commuter train cars to come crashing down on vehicles.

In 2019, NTSB released its Most Wanted List, stressing the need to fully implement Positive Train Control, which are systems designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, incursions into established work zones, and movements of trains through switches left in the wrong position.

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