Amtrak Passenger Reveals What It Was Like Aboard Derailed Train That Killed 3, Injured Dozens

by Madison Miller

This past weekend, terrible tragedy struck those onboard an Amtrak cross-country train.

On Saturday, the train, with two locomotives and 10 cars, derailed in the middle of expansive farmland out in northern Montana by the town of Joplin.

The Empire Builder Amtrak was traveling from Chicago to Seattle when it suddenly derailed as it approached a switch on the tracks. When the train derailed, several cars flipped over sideways and three people were killed. There were seven others sent to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.

The Amtrak train was carrying 141 passengers and 16 crew members when this all happened. As of right now, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are looking into what happened that day. They are looking into onboard footage and data from what is called the “black box.”

Amtrak Passenger Shares Experience

For people aboard that train, all they know right now is the terrifying moments that ensued after the train derailed.

One passenger named Megan Vandervest described what it was like the moment she realized something horrifying was happening.

“I would describe the experience as kind of extreme turbulence on an airplane but louder, and there was kind of a lot of smoke smell. The first thought I really had when I woke up was, ‘Oh my God we’re derailing,'” she told CNN.

Vandervest also said that there were about 15 seconds in which everyone was being jolted back and forth. There was a lot of extremely loud noise until the train eventually came to a complete stop. She shared that the passengers “didn’t know what was going on for a couple minutes.”

After that, she was evacuated along with the others within 10 minutes of the train’s derailment. When she stepped off the Amtrak train, she could then clearly see exactly how much damage had occurred that day.

“We kind of thought maybe the car behind us had slightly come off or something like that, but it ended up being much, much worse and a lot more jarring to see when we got off the train. The car behind ours was slightly off and then the one behind that was kind of in between two sets of railroad tracks, and the one behind that one had like completely tipped over and fallen over and that was kind of the most shocking part,” Vandervest said to the news outlet.

Injuries and Hospitalization

After the train derailed, several people were left critically injured. These individuals were taken by ambulance to nearby hospitals for treatment. Meanwhile, those with severe injuries were flown elsewhere.

There are still two patients that are hospitalized at Logan Health in Kalispell. Both are expected to soon be released.

According to CBS News, amongst those killed was a married couple from Georgia. They were celebrating their 50th anniversary when the train derailed and led to their tragic deaths. They were 74-year-old Donald Varnadoe and 72-year-old Marjorie Varnadoe.

The third person killed was Zach Schneider. The 28-year-old was traveling from Illinois to Portland with his wife Rebecca, who was not hurt during the incident.