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Married Missouri engineer Zach Schneider 28 killed Montana Amtrak derailment traveling Portland

The CEO of the railroad service, Amtrak, has said the company is ‘in mourning’ following the death of three passengers who were killed when a train derailed in Montana on Saturday afternoon. 

‘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,’ said Amtrak’s CEO Bill Flynn in a statement on Sunday night.

Earlier on Sunday, one of the three victims of Saturday’s crash was pictured in GoFundMe page for funeral expenses. 

Missouri engineer, Zach Schneider, 28, and his wife Becca were onboard the train traveling to Portland, Oregon for a vacation when it derailed yesterday afternoon. 

Zach Schneider is pictured in photos from his Facebook page. Zach was killed on September 25 2021, when an Amtrak train derailed in Montana, on his way to Portland

Zach Schneider, 28, and his wife Becca, 26, were both onboard the train at the time

Zach Schneider, 28, and his wife Becca, 26, were both onboard the train at the time

Three people are dead and more than 50 are injured after an Amtrak train carrying 147 passengers and 13 crew derailed in Montana on Saturday afternoon

Three people are dead and more than 50 are injured after an Amtrak train carrying 147 passengers and 13 crew derailed in Montana on Saturday afternoon

This aerial view taken on Sunday  shows part of an Amtrak train that derailed in north-central Montana Saturday that killed multiple people and left others hospitalized, officials said

This aerial view taken on Sunday  shows part of an Amtrak train that derailed in north-central Montana Saturday that killed multiple people and left others hospitalized, officials said

The westbound Empire Builder was en route to Seattle from Chicago, with two locomotives and 10 cars, when it left the tracks about 4pm on Saturday

The westbound Empire Builder was en route to Seattle from Chicago, with two locomotives and 10 cars, when it left the tracks about 4pm on Saturday

Amtrak's Empire Builder derailed near Joplin, Montana around 4pm MST

Amtrak’s Empire Builder derailed near Joplin, Montana around 4pm MST

Zach, who was from St. Louis, was killed after several of the train cars left the tracks and toppled over onto their sides.

A friend of the family paid tribute to him saying he was one of the ‘sweetest, smartest, and most unique people I know.’

‘Zach always used this to push for a better world where everyone was included. I have always respected his ability to think differently. Thankful to have been blessed by knowing you, Zach,’ wrote Caleb Morris in a heartfelt plea for donations. 

‘We are in mourning for the people who lost their lives due to the derailment of the Empire Builder train Saturday, near Joplin, Montana, on the BNSF Railway, as well as the many others who were injured,’ Amtrak’s Bill Flynn said.

A GoFundMe page has been set up by a friend of the family for Zach Schneider's funeral expenses

A GoFundMe page has been set up by a friend of the family for Zach Schneider’s funeral expenses

Zach Schneider is pictured with wife Becca Schneider in photos from her Instagram page. The couple had been married since 2016

Zach Schneider is pictured with wife Becca Schneider in photos from her Instagram page. The couple had been married since 2016

Crews appear to be using ladders to get on top of the cars in a rescue effort on Saturday

Crews appear to be using ladders to get on top of the cars in a rescue effort on Saturday

It is suspected that the train derailed near the switch at East Buelow. The cause of the derailment is not clear. Pictured: People use ladders to climb up the side of train cars to help trapped passengers escape

It is suspected that the train derailed near the switch at East Buelow. The cause of the derailment is not clear. Pictured: People use ladders to climb up the side of train cars to help trapped passengers escape

In the statement, Flynn said the company was cooperating with the investigation. He added they are working with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Federal Railroad Administration, local law enforcement and response agencies.

‘Amtrak’s immediate and sustained focus is on doing everything we can to help our passengers and crew, especially the families of those who were injured or died, at this painful and difficult time,’ Flynn added.

He said the company’s incident response team has been initiated. Amtrak has sent emergency personnel and company leadership to help support passengers, employees and their families.

The westbound Empire Builder was traveling to Seattle from Chicago when it left the tracks at about 4pm on Saturday near the small town of Joplin.

The train was carrying about 141 passengers and 16 crew members and had two locomotives and 10 cars, eight of which derailed, Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams said.

Passengers are pictured beside derailed cars on the track near Joplin, Montana.

One passenger said she heard a boom and felt the carriage 'pitching violently side-to-side'

Passengers are pictured beside derailed cars on the track near Joplin, Montana. One passenger said she heard a boom and felt the carriage ‘pitching violently side-to-side’

At least three cars derailed and two separated from the train

At least three cars derailed and two separated from the train 

The last train car was completely on its side from the derailment

The last train car was completely on its side from the derailment 

A 14-member National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) team including investigators and specialists in railroad signals were looking into the cause of the derailment on a BNSF Railway main track that involved no other trains or equipment, board spokesman Eric Weiss said.

The accident scene is about 30 miles from the Canadian border.

Most of the people on the train were treated and released for their injuries, but five people who were more seriously hurt remained at the Benefis Health System hospital in Great Falls, Montana, according to Sarah Robbin, Liberty County emergency services co-ordinator.

Another two people were at Logan Health, a hospital in Kalispell, Montana, spokeswoman Melody Sharpton said.

Liberty County Sheriff Nick Erickson said the rest of the names of the dead would not be released until relatives had been notified.

Ms Robbin said nearby residents had rushed to help when the derailment occurred.

‘We are so fortunate to live where we do, where neighbors help neighbors,’ she said.

One car flipped over. Some of the cars slid down a 30 foot embankment

One car flipped over. Some of the cars slid down a 30 foot embankment 

The train spread across two tracks. It is believed the accident happened near a switch

The train spread across two tracks. It is believed the accident happened near a switch 

Amtrak said it had sent emergency personnel and other officials to the site to help passengers, employees and local officials. It said company officials had been ‘deeply saddened’ to learn of the deaths.

Following the derailment, Sunday’s westbound Empire Builder from Chicago was terminating in Minneapolis, and the eastbound train was originating in Minneapolis.

Passenger Megan Vandervest told The New York Times she had been woken by the derailment.

‘My first thought was that we were derailing because, to be honest, I have anxiety and I had heard stories about trains derailing,’ Ms Vandervest, from Minneapolis, said.

‘My second thought was that’s crazy. We wouldn’t be derailing. Like, that doesn’t happen.’

She told the newspaper that the car behind hers was tilted, the one behind that was tipped over, and the three cars behind that ‘had completely fallen off the tracks and were detached from the train’.

Speaking from the Liberty County Senior Centre, where some passengers were being taken, Ms Vandervest said it had felt like ‘extreme turbulence on a plane’.

Residents of communities near the crash site quickly mobilized to help.

Chester councillor Rachel Ghekiere said she and others had helped about 50 to 60 passengers who were taken to a school.

‘I went to the school and assisted with water, food, wiping dirt off faces,’ she said.

‘They appeared to be tired, shaken but happy that they were where they were. Some looked more disheveled than others, depending where they were on the train.’

Allan Zarembski, director of the University of Delaware’s Railway Engineering and Safety Program, said he did not want to speculate but suspected that the derailment stemmed from an issue with the train track or equipment, or a combination of both.

Railways had ‘virtually eliminated’ major derailments by human error after the implementation of positive train control nationwide, Mr Zarembski said.

‘I would be surprised if this was a human-factor derailment,’ he said.

NTSB findings could take months, he added.

Bob Chipkevich, who oversaw railway crash investigations for several years at the NTSB, said the agency would not rule out human error or any other potential causes for now.

‘There are still human performance issues examined by NTSB to be sure that people doing the work are qualified and rested and doing it properly,’ Mr Chipkevich said.

Mr Chipkevich said track conditions had historically been a significant cause of train accidents. He noted that most of the track that Amtrak used was owned by freight railways and depended on those companies for safety maintenance.


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