The cause of the derailed Amtrak train is not yet known

Steve Glaser was at 730 on Saturday, checking the Great Britain Cake Show on his cell phone, and waiting for his Amtrak train to ride up to the highlands of Glacier National Park in the flat meadows of central Montana. When the carriage is pulled hard. He immediately knew that he had slipped.

If he stays right, he thought, I’ll be fine.

His car did, but another fell and blew the passengers through the car. When the train with two locomotives stopped, 66-year-old Glaser and the other passengers worked together to open the windows. He grabbed his briefcase and went out to see the carts strewn on the tracks and the other injured passengers.

Eight of the 10 passenger carriages derailed after a train with 145 passengers and 13 crew derailed near Joplin, Mont., killing three people and injuring a dozen others. As of Sunday afternoon, five people involved in the incident were hospitalized in stable condition at the Great Falls Benefit Health System.

Officers gave no information on what they suspect the train derailed as it was traveling, even though it was part of a flat and straight route. The wreck is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

“We share a sense of urgency to understand why the accident happened. We will not comment on the incident until the investigation is complete,” Amtrak CEO William J. Flynn said in a statement Sunday. “The NTSB will investigate the cause or causes of this accident, and Amtrak will do so in the future.” I promise to take appropriate steps to prevent such incidents from happening. ”

Cornering is a frequent cause of skidding, as have happened in the fatal Amtrak crashes in Washington and Philadelphia in recent years. Following the accident, Amtrak installed a braking system that did not allow trains to exceed a certain speed and applied the brakes to avoid collisions with trains or other rail equipment.

“The human factor is the number one cause of slips and accidents,” said Alan Zerembski, director of the Railroad Engineering and Safety Program at the University of Delaware.

But in this case, he said, the human factor that caused the disaster was lost. “Most likely something will break.”

Other than human error, he said, most of the debris was caused by faulty equipment — perhaps the wheels, or the axles, or the track itself.

The train derailed on tracks owned and operated by BNSF Railway Company, a freight company. Most of the national Amtrak network operates on rail owned by freight trains, which means that Amtrak is not responsible for the maintenance of those rails. BNSF spokesman Matt Brown said Sunday that part of the derailed train route was last inspected on September 23.

Some passengers reported that the train ride felt uneven for several miles, which could indicate a problem with the train’s suspension system. But when train crews see such problems, it can be difficult to identify the cause as trains move between cities, Zerembski said.

If the riots were more sudden, Saturday’s heat could also be to blame, said Russell Quimby, a retired accident investigator at the National Transportation Safety Board.

Mr Quimby said he suspected the train may have found a bent section of the rail from overheating.

“In this case, the train can’t achieve the small change in rail curvature and it crosses the rail and slips and falls over the edge as you can see in the image,” they said.

The temperature in Joplin had already reached 84 degrees at the time of the incident. Trains are typically about 20 to 30 degrees hotter than the temperature outside, says Quimby, which is “probably above” what the rails were designed for.

In 1988, an Amtrak train traveling the same route derailed in Saco, Mont. After hitting the rail buckle.

This is a very rare occurrence,” he said. “We haven’t had one in this area for over 30 years.”

It’s not clear if the train derailed while changing tracks, but if the switch was placed incorrectly, that could be the reason, Quimby said.

After the accident, hospitals across the country began accepting passengers, some with broken ribs and collarbones. Aubrey Green, 88, who was returning to Portland after a trip to Le Havre, Mont., said the car she was sitting in fell onto her side and three women “flyed over me”.

After the incident, Mr. Glaser said that “society has taken control”.

Sarah Robin, ambulance coordinator in Liberty County, Mont., one of the most rural counties in the state, has spent many years creating scenarios like this in her head and planning the best route. is the answer.

Each of the smaller towns has Route 2, which runs through northern Montana on the railroad tracks, with a population of several hundred to several thousand. The next major hospital is just a few hours drive. Emergency services are rare.

“We are a small area,” he said, adding that something like Saturday’s accident “will soon overwhelm us.” Since we are small and rural, it is very important to trust our neighbors. ”

In the town of Chester, about seven to eight miles west of the derailment, a siren system alerted 1,000 or more residents of important news. A ring indicates a city meeting. Second, the ruler. Three, fire alarm. Fourth, “a terrible disaster,” said Jesse Anderson, owner of the MX Motel, a 20-room stop that typically caters to fishermen, builders, and hunters.

When Mr Anderson heard the four sirens yesterday, he thought it was a mistake. But then he saw a fire engine speeding along the main road at 40 kilometers per hour.

“We didn’t expect it to be like this,” he said.

Rescue workers from at least seven counties rushed to help. As the only motel 50 miles east or west, Mr Anderson was urged by some travelers to stay home. They give away their free room for free.

Families from the nearby Hutterite Colony brought food for the travelers while they waited to board and stay at the school gym.

Several passengers injured by the debris said they would never ride the train again.

Hedi Kachorek, 71, and her husband Robert have been traveling by train together for decades. They were going to visit their grandson in Seattle when the trip went bad. After smooth railroads in Illinois and Wisconsin, things started to get uneven.

When the couple discussed getting off the train early at Shelby Station, he derailed.

Patrick McGeehan contributed to the coverage.