A 28-year-old engineer was one of three people that died Saturday afternoon when an Amtrak train derailed in Montana. Zach Schneider, of St. Louis, was traveling with his wife to Portland, Oregon, died when the train came off the tracks outside of Joplin, Montana. His wife survived. The crash injured more than 50.
Schneider worked for the payment processor Stripe. But he was on vacation for a trip to Oregon, the Daily Mail said. He was first identified as one of the crash victims because of a GoFundMe campaign set up to help his family cover funeral costs. So far that campaign has raised more than $14,000 of its intended $20,000 target.
“Zach always used this to push for a better world where everyone was included,” his friend Caleb Morris wrote on the fundraising page. “I have always respected his ability to think differently. Thankful to have been blessed by knowing you, Zach.”
Investigators haven’t released the names of all of the victims. Schneider was one of the 141 passengers on the Chicago to Seattle Amtrak train.
Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn said Sunday that the company is distraught over the derailment, the New York Post reported.
“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.”
But he added that the company wouldn’t comment further until they determined the cause of the crash.
Authorities Are Investigating Cause of the Amtrak Crash
Trevor Fossen, of Joplin, who was the first person on the scene, said he saw a wall of dust and smoke rising some 300 feet.
“I started looking at that, wondering what it was, and then I saw the train had tipped over and derailed,” he told the Associated Press. He called 911 and then his brother to help him get people out of the damaged train cars.
It’s unclear why the Amtrak train came off of the track. But a 14-member National Transportation Safety Board team is working with local investigators to determine the cause, the AP reported.
Experts have their suspicions.
David Clarke, director of the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Tennessee, wondered if a switch played a role in the crash. He said the front two cars remained on the track but the back eight derailed.
“Did the switch play some role?” he said to the AP. “It might have been that the front of the train hit the switch, and it started fish-tailing and that flipped the back part of the train”
One of the survivors of the Amtrak train crash said the derailment happened without a warning.
“I was in one of the front cars and we got badly jostled, thrown from one side of the train to the other,” he told MSNBC. He said he injured his back and knee in the crash.
“I’m a pretty big guy and it picked me up from my chair and threw me into one wall and then threw me into the other wall.”