A 28-year-old married man has been identified as one of the three people who died in the fatal Amtrak derailment in Montana on Saturday that also injured over 50 people.
Zach Schneider was traveling to Portland, Oregon with his wife Becca for a vacation when eight of the westbound Empire Builder’s 10 cars derailed near rural Joplin, Montana.
Schneider was identified by a GoFundMe page started to help cover the family’s funeral costs.
Schneider was from St. Louis where he worked as an engineer for payment processing firm Stripe, The Daily Mail reported.
Caleb Morris, a family friend, started the GoFundMe page.
“Zach Schneider is one the sweetest, smartest, and most unique people I know,” Morris wrote on the site in a heartfelt statement.“I have always respected his ability to think differently.”
“Zach always used this to push for a better world where everyone was included. Thankful to have been blessed by knowing you, Zach.”
The train was carrying 141 passengers and 16 Amtrak crew members at the time of the derailment that occurred on a BNSF mainline track.
The National Transportation Safety Board has deployed a 14-member team, including investigators and specialists in railroad signals, to the scene to investigate the crash.
Trevor Fossen, of Joplin, was the first to arrive at the crash when he saw a “wall of dust” about 300 feet high.
“I started looking at that, wondering what it was and then I saw the train had tipped over and derailed,” Fossen told the Associated Press.
He called 911 and started trying to get people out. He also phoned his brother, and told him to bring ladders to help get people out from the train car windows.
Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn released a statement on the crash on Sunday offering his condolences to the families who had lost a loved one in the crash, pledging to work with law enforcement to determine the cause of the crash. He said the transit company will not make any further comment on the crash until the NTSB makes that final determination.
“We are in mourning today 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,” Flynn said. “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.”
“We share the sense of urgency to understand why the accident happened; however, until the investigation is complete, we will not comment further on the accident itself. The NTSB will identify the cause or causes of this accident, and Amtrak commits to taking appropriate actions to prevent a similar accident in the future.”
Most of those on the train were treated and released for their injuries, however five who were more seriously hurt remained at the Benefis Health System hospital in Great Falls, Montana, Sarah Robbin, Liberty County emergency services coordinator, told the AP. Two of those patients were in the ICU, a hospital spokesperson said.
Two others were being treated at Logan Health, a hospital in Kalispell, Montana, according to spokeswoman Melody Sharpton.
The small town of Joplin boasts just a population of just a couple of hundred, and is about three hours north of state capital Helena. The heavily rural Liberty County has an estimated population just under 1 million, and is still larger than the state of Rhode Island, according to the latest US census data.
The accident site is about 150 miles northeast of Helena and about 30 miles from the Canadian border.
The locals have been incredibly helpful in their efforts to help the victims.
About 60 passengers were transported to a nearby school in Chester, where they were provided with basic needs, according to Chester Councilwoman Rachel Ghekiere.
“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.”
“The locals have been so amazing and accommodating,” passenger Jacob Cordeiro said on Twitter. “They provided us with food, drinks, and wonderful hospitality. Nothing like it when the best comes together after a tragedy.”
“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 the car left the tracks, but did not fall over.
“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,” Cordeiro said.
Liberty County Sheriff Nick Erickson has said the names of the deceased would not be released until relatives are notified.
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