Montana

Jul 7, 2014 7:13 PM by Brenda Bassett - MTN News

Clean up at train derailment involving plane parts continues

SUPERIOR - It could take until Tuesday to remove three airplane fuselages that slid down a steep embankment into the Clark Fork River after a train derailment near Alberton last week.

Montana Rail Link spokeswoman Lynda Frost said Monday progress is going extremely slow at the site between Alberton and Superior.

Frost said a crew of 50 people, along with eight heavy-equipment machines, are working to hoist up the three Boeing 737 fuselages - the large, central portions of planes that hold passengers.

Six fuselages were aboard a westbound train when 19 cars derailed Thursday about 10 miles west of Alberton. The three remaining plane sections also fell off but stayed on land.

No one was injured in the derailment, which remains under investigation. Boeing said in a statement that it has experts at the scene to assess the damage.

Meanwhile, Frost said Monday that the train was traveling well under the 35 mph speed limit for that section of track when the accident happened.

Although cars that derailed weren't carrying any toxic material, it's still a concern that the next time it could be.

"That's the first thing that we're always looking at when something like this happens, are there contaminants in the river. Certainly something that's a big concern and when it does happen, we've had a few cases of that, it makes a big impact to the environment," said Vivica Crowser with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

FWP officials said they've made public safety the priority, and add that cooperation with local rafting companies has helped tremendously in keeping river-goers on the waterways.

"The role of the river outfitting community has been huge. Montana River Guides and others that have helped keep lookout on the river and notify us at the boat launch if we need to slow down boats while certain operations are taking place," Crowser said.

Although there have been some short delays for rafters, it's still business is as usual - but with a much different view.

Repair crew members have been repelling down the slope to attach cables so they're able to pull those fuselages out, and a second one was removed on Monday afternoon.

The track was reopened for service on Saturday evening, but trains moving through the area have to slow down to just 10 mph.

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