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Joplin, MT

Victims identified in fatal Amtrak derailment

WPXI Pittsburgh
WPXI Pittsburgh
 23 days ago
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JOPLIN, Mont. — The identities of all three victims killed Saturday in the derailment of a westbound Amtrak train near Joplin, Montana, have been identified by local authorities.

The victims include 72-year-old Marjorie Varnadoe and 74-year-old Donald Varnadoe, a retired Georgia couple; and Zach Schneider, 29, of Fairview, Illinois, who was vacationing with his wife, The Washington Post reported.

The Empire Builder, which runs between Chicago and Seattle-Portland, derailed near the Canadian border at around 4 p.m. local time Saturday, killing three of the 141 passengers and leaving seven hospitalized and dozens of others injured. There were also 17 crew members onboard the train.

The National Transportation Safety Board assumed control late Saturday of the investigation into what caused eight of the train’s 10 cars to leave the tracks.

According to The Brunswick News, Donald Varnadoe was a retired real estate agent from St. Simons Island, Georgia, and Marjorie Varnadoe had been a revered teacher and school administrator in their community.

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page established to help cover funeral expenses for Schneider confirmed that he and his wife were en route to Portland for a vacation when the train derailed.

“Zach Schneider is one the sweetest, smartest, and most unique people I know,” the online fundraiser’s organizer, Caleb Morris, wrote.

“I have always respected his ability to think differently. Zach always used this to push for a better world where everyone was included,” Morris added.

Liberty County Sheriff Nick Erickson estimated that as many as 30 people were injured during the derailment but confirmed that only five remained hospitalized, all of whom were listed in stable condition, by Sunday.

Although no cause for the derailment has been determined, rail safety experts told the Post that numerous factors could have contributed to the crash, including “human error and track and equipment failure, which is more common on older equipment such as the Superliner fleet operating in the route, the oldest in Amtrak’s rolling stock.”

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