Steve Glazer boarded sleeper 730 on Saturday, watched the “British Bake Off Show” on his mobile phone, and saw the moment Amtrak trains left the flat grasslands of central Montana for the Alpine Pass in Glacier National Park. I was looking forward to it. When the train is severely cramped. Soon he noticed that it had derailed.
“If you stay upright, it’s okay,” he thought.
His car did, but others fell and flew passengers through the car. When the train, including the two locomotives, stopped, Glazer, 66, and another passenger worked together to pry open the window. He went out with his briefcase and found trains and other passengers scattered along the railroad tracks injured.
Eight of the ten passenger cars were off the railroad tracks when a train carrying 145 passengers and 13 crew members derailed near Joplin, Montana, killing three and injuring dozens more. I jumped off. As of Sunday afternoon, five people from the crash were hospitalized in the Great Falls Benefis Health System, all in stable condition.
Authorities have not released any information about their suspicion that the train derailed as it passed through the apparently flat and straight part of the route. The wreckage is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
“We share a sense of urgency to understand why the accident happened, but we will not comment further on the accident itself until the investigation is complete,” said Amtrak CEO. William J. Flynn said in a statement on Sunday. “The NTSB has identified the cause of this accident and Amtrak is committed to taking appropriate steps to prevent similar accidents in the future.”
In most cases, derailments are caused by speed violations around the turn, as in the case of Amtrak’s fatal accidents in Washington and Philadelphia in recent years. Since these collisions, Amtrak has installed a braking system that keeps trains from exceeding certain speeds and brakes to avoid collisions with other trains and railroad equipment.
Allan Zarembski, director of rail engineering and safety programs at the University of Delaware, said:
But in this case, he said, there seems to be no human factor that could cause such an accident. “Probably something broke.”
With the exception of human error, he said most shipwrecks were caused by equipment failures such as wheels, axles, or the truck itself.
The train derailed on a track owned and maintained by the BNSF Railway Company, a freight railroad. Most of Amtrak’s national network runs on railroad tracks that belong to freight railroads. In other words, Amtrak is not responsible for maintaining the tracks. BNSF spokesman Matt Brown said on Sunday that the section of the derailed railroad track was last inspected on September 23.
Some passengers reported that the ride quality of the train felt bumpy for miles. This may indicate a problem with the train suspension system. But even if train crews become aware of such issues, it can be difficult to pinpoint their source while the train is running between cities, Zalembusky said.
If the eddy was more sudden, it could also be due to the heat on Saturday, said Russell Quimby, a retired accident investigator of the National Transportation Safety Board.
Quimby said he suspected that the train had hit a part of the track that had buckled due to overheating.
“When that happens, the train can’t negotiate that tight little change in the curvature of the truck, and it runs on the rails as you see in the picture, derails and falls sideways,” he said. Said.
At the time of the accident, Joplin’s temperature peaked at 84 degrees Celsius. Railroad tracks are usually about 20 to 30 degrees hotter than the outside temperature, Quimby said. This can be “much higher” than the temperature the track was designed to withstand.
In 1988, an Amtrak train on the same route derailed in Saco, Montana, after hitting a railroad buckle.
“This is a very rare event,” he said. “There hasn’t been one in this area for more than 30 years.”
It’s unclear if the train derailed during the track switch, but if the switch was off, that could also be the cause, Quimby said.
After the wreck, hospitals throughout the state accepted passengers, some of whom suffered from broken ribs and collars. Aubrey Green, 88, who had returned to Portland after visiting Havre, Montana, said the car he was riding had fallen to the side and three women “flyed over me.”
“The community has taken over,” Glazer said after the crash.
For the past few years, Sara Robin, a disaster emergency services coordinator in Liberty County, Montana, one of the state’s most rural counties, has often played such scenarios in her mind and planned the best way. I’ve been spending time. response.
The small towns scattered on National Highway No. 2, which runs along the railroad tracks in northern Montana, each have hundreds to thousands of inhabitants. The nearest major hospital is a few hours drive away. Emergency services are sparse.
“We are a small county,” she said, adding that something like a Saturday crash would soon overwhelm us. It’s small and rural, so relying on your neighbors is very important. “
In the town of Chester, about 7-8 miles west of the derailment, a siren system warns about 1,000 residents of important news. One ring represents a city meeting. Second, ambulance. Third, the call of fire. And four, “some terrible disasters,” said Jessie Anderson, who owns the MX motel. MX motels are 20 room stopovers, typically for anglers, construction workers, and hunters.
When Anderson heard the four sirens yesterday, he thought it was a mistake. But then he saw a fire engine running at high speed on the main street at 25 mph.
“We didn’t expect it to be of this scale,” he said.
Emergency response personnel from at least seven counties rushed to help. Anderson was asked to accommodate some of the passengers as the only motel 50 miles east to west. He provided available rooms free of charge.
A nearby Hutterite colonial family brought food to the passengers while they were waiting to board and stay in the school gym.
Some passengers who were traumatized by the wreck said they would never take the train again.
Hedy Kacholek, 71, and her husband Robert have been on the train together for decades. They were on their way to see their grandchildren in Seattle when the ride quality began to get rough. After the smooth rails in Illinois and Wisconsin, it began to become uncomfortable and bumpy.
It was off the rails when the couple talked about getting off the train early at the Shelby stop.
Patrick McGeehan contributed to the report.