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Train derailment in northern Montana spills freight, but hazmat car safe

By Associated Press
Published: July 24, 2023, 7:48am

HAVRE, Mont. (AP) — A train derailment in northern Montana spilled freight and left cars tangled up along a major east-west railroad corridor but caused no injuries.

The accident comes less than a month after a railroad bridge collapse in southern Montana sent tanks cars with oil products plunging into the Yellowstone River, spilling molten sulfur and up to 250 tons of hot asphalt.

The latest accident involved a BNSF Railway traveling Friday at 5:39 p.m. near the Milk River east of the small town of Havre.

Eleven cars derailed and the cause was under investigation, said BNSF spokesperson Lena Kent. Cleanup and repair work continued Saturday as the line was reopened to service.

One car hauling hazardous materials — paint thinner — derailed but did not spill, said Amanda Frickel with Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services. Cars carrying cake mix, napkins, carrots and other consumer goods broke open and spilled, she said.

Some of the derailed cars carried shipping containers stacked in pairs, and officials initially estimated more than two dozen cars were involved.

Railroads are largely self-regulating, but they’re under growing pressure from lawmakers and unions over safety lapses often traced to the condition of tracks and equipment.

In 2021, an Amtrak train derailed about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Friday’s freight train accident. Three people were killed, and dozens were injured. Investigators in February disclosed that the BNSF-owned track was bent along a curve at the Amtrak derailment site. The problem worsened as freight trains traveled through the area before the crash.