At least three people were killed and many others have been injured after an Amtrak train derailed in Montana on Saturday, authorities said.
The Liberty County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the deaths but wasn’t able to estimate the number of people injured to the New York Post as a massive effort is underway to rescue passengers still trapped in the wreckage.
The Empire Builder, which was travelling between Chicago and Seattle, had 146 passengers and 16 crew members on board when seven of its 10 cars derailed near Joplin around 4 pm on September 25, Amtrak confirmed.
All those who had been trapped aboard the train after the crash have been taken off the train, an official with the Liberty County Sheriff’s office said.
A Spokane-based news director whose brother-in-law is a firefighter in Montana said in a tweet that responders “were dispatched & told to prepare for a large amount of people trapped – or worse.”
Witness Jeremiah Johnson told local outlets that responders used ladders to free people. Others had to be cut free.
Speaking to KRTV, Johnson said: “We had to lift a few people out with lots of volunteers and then cut some out …There was one lady in the back whose legs were trapped and was unable to be removed without using a saw (to cut away seats.).”
The passengers were taken by buses to hotels in nearby Shelby, said Ghekiere, whose husband works for the local emergency services agency and was alerted to the crash.
Megan Vandervest, a passenger who was on her way to visit her friend in Seattle, told The New York Times: “My first thought was that we were derailing because, to be honest, I have anxiety and I had heard stories about trains derailing.
“My second thought was that’s crazy. We wouldn’t be derailing. Like, that doesn’t happen.”
Around 60 passengers were transported to a nearby school and were provided with basic needs, according to Chester Councilwoman Rachel Ghekiere.
“I went to the school and assisted with water, food, wiping dirt off faces,” she said.
“They appeared to be tired, shaken but happy that they were where they were. Some looked more dishevelled than others, depending on where they were on the train.”
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