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UPDATE: Amtrak confirms 3 deaths in Hi-Line train derailment

Injuries and deaths are being reported
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Posted at 6:47 PM, Sep 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-26 10:33:57-04

HELENA — Update 8:30 AM, 09/26/2021: Amtrak confirmed the deaths of three people following the Empire Builder derailment near Joplin on Saturday. Officials released the following statement late Saturday night:

We are deeply saddened to learn local authorities are now confirming that three people have lost their lives as a result of this accident. There are also reported injuries among the passengers and crew members travelling on the train. Amtrak is working with the local authorities to transport those who were injured to medical care, and to safely evacuate everyone else at the scene.

There was no information released on what caused the derailment. We will update you if we get more information.

Update 8:00 PM: CBS News is reporting the Liberty County Sheriff's Office has confirmed three casualties associated with the Amtrak train derailment. MTN has reached out to the Liberty County Sheriff's Office but has yet to receive an official response.

UPDATE: 7:20 PM: Amtrak has confirmed the derailment near Joplin.

Public Relations Manager Jason Abrams released the following statement:

At approximately 4 pm MT, Empire Builder train 7/27 derailed operating near Joplin, MT. There are approximately 146 passengers and 16 crew members onboard, with injuries reported. Individuals with questions about their friends and family aboard this train should call 800-523-9101.

The train consisted of two locomotives and 10 cars, with seven of those cars derailing. Amtrak is working with the local authorities to transport injured passengers, and safely evacuate all other passengers.

As a result of the derailment, Empire Builder trains 7/27 and 8/28 originating on Sat. Sept. 25 are cancelled between Minot, ND (MOT) and Shelby, MT (SBY). Additionally, on Sunday, Sept. 26, westbound Empire Builder train 7 will terminate in Minneapolis, MN (MSP) and eastbound Empire Builder train 8 will originate in Minneapolis, MN (MSP). No substitute transportation is available. Amtrak customers can contact us at 800-872-7245 to obtain additional information about the status of services.

Amtrak will provide additional details as they are available.

FIRST REPORT: An Amtrak passenger train derailed in Liberty County Saturday afternoon.

The first reports of the derailment came in just after 4:00 p.m.

The train was reportedly just west of Joplin when it went off the tracks.

Pictures shared on social media showed at least one car completely on its side and several other cars upright or tipped but off the tracks.

A witness described helping passengers exit the derailed cars.

Jeremiah Johnson told MTN's Colter Anstaett that ladders were being used to free people and some had to be cut free.

"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.)," Johnson said.

Johnson described seeing shoulder, head and neck injuries.

There are reports that passengers are being bused to Chester High School or the Chester Senior Center for staging. Officials have not confirmed to MTN any fatalities as of 6:45 p.m. Saturday evening.

He added that his wife assisted with helping passengers as they got off the train.

"Right now, she's helping out on site and then was kind of checking people's vitals as they were coming. I brought her to the hospital. They had plenty of help up there so we went to the high school and she started helping get down people's injuries, names, and documenting any medication they may be taking."

Johnson estimated there were dozens of people at the high school.

MTN has a reporter at the scene and will update you when more details are available.

The Amtrak passenger line that runs along the Montana Hi-Line is known as the Empire Builder. It runs between Chicago and Seattle/Portland.

*UPDATE 9/25/2021 7:10 PM This story has been updated to include witness accounts of freeing people from the derailed train.
*UPDATE 9/25/2021 9:09 PM This story has been updated to include an expanded statement from Amtrak