Cause of Montana Amtrak derailment still under investigation

National News

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A preliminary report on the derailment of an Amtrak train in north-central Montana last month that killed three people and injured dozens more gave no information on the cause of the accident, but said the train’s emergency brakes were activated and that Amtrak estimated the damage at $22 million.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s report issued Tuesday said the westbound Empire Builder was carrying 154 people when it derailed on Sept. 25 just west of Joplin, Montana. Forty-four passengers and crew were taken to local hospitals with injuries, the report said.

The train was traveling at between 75 and 78 mph (121-125 kph), just below the speed limit of 79 mph (127 kph) on that section of track when its emergency brakes were activated.

The two locomotives and two railcars remained on the rails. Eight other cars derailed, with four ending up on their sides, including an observation car.

Rail experts have said the crash could have been caused by problems with the railroad or track, such as a rail that buckled under high heat, or the track itself giving way when the train passed over.

But they said investigators would consider all possibilities, including potential problems with the Empire Builder’s wheels or suspension system. Investigators also were examining if passengers were ejected from the train during the crash.

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