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Cause of last month's Amtrak derailment remains under investigation

amtrak montana NTSB.jpg
File photo
National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg observes the scene of the Amtrak derailment in northern Montana last month.

A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board on last month’s derailment of an Amtrak train near Joplin, Montana, does not identify a cause.

The incident killed three passengers and sent 44 passengers and crew to local hospitals with injuries.

Amtrak Train 7, the Empire Builder, was westbound along the Montana Hi-Line when it derailed at the right-hand curve on the BNSF Railway track the afternoon of Sept. 25.

NTSB reports the train was traveling between 75 and 78 mph — below the maximum speed of 79 mph — when its emergency brakes were activated. The two locomotives and the first two railcars of the 10-car train remained on the rail. Eight railcars derailed with four derailing on their sides. The weather was clear at the time with no precipitation.

NTSB says a future investigation will focus on track and engineering equipment, survival factors and passenger railcar crashworthiness. Amtrak estimated damage at $22 million.

Lawsuits have been filed against Amtrak and BNSF Railway on behalf of 24 passengers and the families of those who died.

Kay Erickson has been working in broadcasting in Billings for more than 20 years. She spent well over a decade as news assignment editor at KTVQ-TV before joining the staff at YPR. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, with a degree in broadcast journalism. Shortly after graduation she worked in Great Falls where she was one of the first female sports anchor and reporter in Montana.