Investigation Begins After Fatal Montana Amtrak Crash
Questions are again being asked about Amtrak’s safety record after the derailment of a passenger train in Montana left at least three people dead and seven wounded. An investigation team has arrived at the scene of the fatal Montana Amtrak crash.
The westbound Empire Builder train carrying 141 passengers and 17 crew members derailed this month at the remote town of Joplin close to the Canadian border. Ironically, the crash occurred as Amtrak conceded its Rail Safety Week, USA Today reported.
The accident serves as a sad and tragic reminder of Amtrak’s patchy safety record, despite a hiatus of a few years between major wrecks on the rails.
At least seven cars on the Seattle-bound train derailed. Three ended up on their sides. While the cause of the tragedy is still unclear, passengers reported a rough ride before the derailment.
Amtrak has joined the National Transportation Safety Board in conducting an investigation into the incident in Montana. The Amtrak train was going just under the speed limit at about 75 mph when it left the track on a curve, possibly ejecting passengers, according to first responders.
Although the investigators are yet to release findings, some experts pointed to an issue with the track, possibly cause by heat-induced buckling.
The 14-strong investigation team includes specialists in railroad signals, NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said. He pointed out that the derailment involved no other trains or equipment. The train included 10 railroad cars and two locomotives, he said.
Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn has stated his condolences to the victims and said the company is working with the NTSB, Federal Railroad Administration, and local law enforcement agencies, sharing their “sense of urgency” to determine what occurred.
Flynn said the company will not make further comments until the investigation has determined the cause of the wreck.
“The NTSB will identify the cause or causes of this accident, and Amtrak commits to taking appropriate actions to prevent a similar accident in the future,” he said.
The Montana crash is the most serious on an Amtrak train since December 2017 when three people were killed and 10 seriously injured in a derailment near Olympia, Washington. Part of the train landed on Interstate 5.
Amtrak recorded two serious accidents in 2016. Two maintenance workers were struck and killed by a train traveling at over 100 mph in Chester, Pennsylvania. The lead engine derailed. The crash posed alarming questions about the safety of railroad workers.
In the same year, an Amtrak train traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago derailed in Kansas, injuring more than 30 people. Investigators found a cattle feed delivery truck hit the train before it derailed.
Two major Amtrak accidents occurred in 2015. A train heading from Vermont to Washington, D.C., derailed when it hit rocks that had fallen onto the track from a ledge.
Philadelphia was the scene of the most serious Amtrak wreck in recent years when a train traveling at over double the 50 mph sped limit derailed as it reached a sharp curve. The crash killed eight people and injured more than 200, many of them seriously.
Rail Safety Week ran from Sept. 20 until Sept. 26. Nearly 500 police and sheriff’s departments across 43 states and the District of Columbia joined Amtrak’s Police Department to conduct a safety exercise called “Operation Clear Track.”
Our thoughts are with the families of the deceased from the fatal Montana Amtrak crash and those who are injured. The railroads should be a safer alternative to the highways. However, at a time of the proposed expansion of Amtrak routes, the safety questions linger. At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers we help passengers who were injured in train crashes. We also help railroad workers and their families in the unequal battle against the big railroad companies. If you or a family member has been injured in a rail accident, you deserve compensation. Please call us as soon as possible.