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'It Was Pretty Chaotic': 3 Dead In Montana Amtrak Train Derailment

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- An all-hands on deck investigation is underway after a deadly Amtrak derailment.

The Empire Builder train, with 160 people on board, went off the tracks late Saturday afternoon near Joplin, Montana. Three people were killed, and dozens more were hurt.

A derailment seemed so improbable to Minneapolis resident Megan Vandervest that she dismissed it as a possibility.

"I was actually asleep when the train derailed so I awoke to it derailing," Vandervest said. "I would describe the experience as extreme turbulence on a plane but louder."

After evacuating, she saw eight cars of the Amtrak train were off the tracks, some she says had completely tipped over.

"That was the most shocking part, like immediate shock because we didn't know anything had happened," she said.

Deadly Amtrak Train Derailment in Montana
(credit: Megan Vandervest)

The Empire Builder operates between Chicago and Seattle, with a stop at St. Paul's Union Depot. There are a total of six Amtrak stops in Minnesota.

"It was pretty chaotic to be honest, right when we got off, the image of it. You knew there would be injuries but we didn't see any for ourselves," Vandervest said. "There were people very concerned about loved ones. Some had passengers, their loved ones, up in coach while they were in sleeper cars, but overall the mood was very disconnected."

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, said Sunday that five people are in the hospital in stable condition.

"It was really an all-hands-on-deck situation. This small community here, there were 160 passengers on the train approximately. They all had to be scared for on some level at least to determine were there injuries or not," Gianforte said.

Many passengers were taken to a nearby high school. Amtrak trains that travel between Seattle and Chicago, and come through St. Paul's Union Depot, will be disrupted through at least Tuesday.

Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn said his company is cooperating with the investigation led by the National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies. He released a statement about the tragedy Sunday afternoon, saying in part, "We are in mourning today for the people who lost their lives ... as well as the many others who were injured. We have no words that can adequately express our sorrow for those who lost a loved one or who were hurt in this horrible event. They are in our thoughts and prayers."

Click here to check the current status of Amtrak trains.

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