Deadly Amtrak Accident Occurs in Montana


By Amanda Horn

An Amtrak derailed on Saturday afternoon in Joplin, Montana, killing 3 and injuring many more.

The train named Empire Builder was heading west from Chicago to Seattle, when it tipped over 742 miles from its final destination. During the crash, with 157 people aboard, around 50 were injured. Unfortunately, 3 people died during the derailing. The National Transportation Safety Board team will investigate and determine the official reason for the accident.

As of today, the cause of the accident is still unidentified by officials. Many experts like Allan Zarembski, who spoke to The New York Times, believed it to be mechanical malfunction. Zarembski, who is the director of Railroad Engineering and Safety Program at University of Delaware, said that the second most common reason for train wrecks are faulty equipment, “More than likely, something broke.”

Photo of Donald and Margie Varnadoe.
A picture of Donald and Margie Varnadoe. Courtesy of The New York Times

All three of the passengers killed have been identified as 28-year-old Zach Schneider and Margie and Donald Varnadoe. The Varnadoes were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary with a cross country trip aboard the Empire Builder train. While Zach was a newly wed on a trip with his wife, Rebecca.

On September 29th, Rebecca Schneider filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the National Transportation Safety Board. Her attorneys, Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky, P.C., also represented the victim’s of a 2015 Amtrak crash which killed 8 people. Mongeluzzi said to The Washington Post, “Trains should not derail. The passengers of those trains have no control whatsoever regarding the safety of their journey. And they put their lives in the hands of the companies that operate trains and the railroad companies who own and maintain the tracks. It is clear, without question, that something went wrong and horribly wrong to kill three people.” The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the crash and there have been no updates to the cause behind this horrific accident.

Shea Riordan, a Wayne Hills student, was devastated when she heard of this crash. From the time she was an infant,  she has had a love for trains. “It’s so sad to hear about such amazing machines do such horrible things,” Shea said. “I feel so bad for the families. Trains should make you happy not scared.” Shea Riordan expressed her deepest condolences to the Schneider and Varnadoe families.