Several train cars plunged into the Yellowstone River Saturday after a bridge collapsed near Columbus, Montana.
The bridge reportedly collapsed overnight, causing the train cars to fall into the river and sparking fears the train leaked fuel and other contaminants.
Authorities warned Montana residents to conserve water amid concerns that hazardous materials spilled into the river.
“I’m monitoring the train derailment in Stillwater County, and the state is standing by to support as Montana Rail Link and county officials assess their needs,” Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte said.
I’m monitoring the train derailment in Stillwater County, and the state is standing by to support as Montana Rail Link and county officials assess their needs.
— Governor Greg Gianforte (@GovGianforte) June 24, 2023
🚨Alert: A freight train has collapsed into the Yellowstone River in Montana. Hazardous materials are feared to be spilling into the Yellowstone River. pic.twitter.com/ENsZYy5W5J
— The Calvin Coolidge Project (@TheCalvinCooli1) June 24, 2023
Stillwater County News reported Saturday morning:
A total of 8 rail cars are involved and in a great stroke of luck, none contained oil. The cars contained asphalt and a second substance that officials are working to confirm. Both of the substances are described as “slow moving” and have not gone much past the initial scene, said Columbus Fire Chief Rich Cowger and County DES Chief David Stamey. All ditch owners have been notified, as has Yellowstone County. Montana Rail Link is on scene. The public is asked to stay away from the away to prevent congestion.
“The rail cars were carrying asphalt and molten sulfur,” Stillwater County News posted to Facebook in an update Saturday afternoon.
“Yellowstone County DES was notified of a train derailment in Stillwater County early this morning. Multiple tanker cars were damaged and are leaking petroleum products near the Yellowstone River. Resources are being dispatched and multiple agencies are assisting,” the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office said.
NEW — A Train Has Derailed Into Montana’s Yellowstone River and Is Leaking ‘Petroleum Products’
“Yellowstone County DES was notified of a train derailment in Stillwater County early this morning. Multiple tanker cars were damaged and are leaking petroleum products near the… pic.twitter.com/G2FRekFs0G
— Chief Nerd (@TheChiefNerd) June 24, 2023
BREAKING: Train plummets into Yellowstone River after Montana bridge collapse, officials warn against water usage due to fear of hazardous materialshttps://t.co/Q9c5XLzoYS
— Jack Poso 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) June 24, 2023
Footage of the wreckage below:
— R A W S A L E R T S (@rawsalerts) June 24, 2023
Daily Mail reports:
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department also warned locals to avoid water from certain parts of the river.
‘From Indian Point to Buffalo Mirage, avoid water due to possible contact with contaminants,’ the department tweeted.
A multi-agency effort was on the scene Saturday, including Stillwater County Emergency Services, the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office and Columbus Fire & Rescue.
Water treatment facilities in Laurel, Billings and Lockwood shut down their headgates in response to the potentially toxic spill.
The Yellowstone County Disaster and Emergency Services department said irrigation canal companies are also implementing protective measures.
According to the Billings Gazette, several other tanker cars carried “toxic petroleum products” but didn’t appear to spill.
Several other tanker cars were also carrying toxic petroleum products, but apparently didn’t spill, said Stillwater County Emergency Services Director David Stamey.
How much of the contents of the burst tankers were discharged into the river hasn’t yet been determined. Montana Rail Link hazardous materials crews were onsite Saturday afternoon to assess the damage.
The train was traveling westbound when it derailed while on the bridge, Montana Rail Link said in a statement to media.
On an offramp from Interstate 90 near the crash site, a long line of trucks carrying heavy equipment was staging to help clear the trestle and the train cars from the river.
It’s unclear what caused the bridge to collapse. The wreckage from the fallen train and bridge is so mangled, and much of it underwater, that it will take a lengthy investigation to determine what failed, said investigators at the scene.
Water-users along the river have been encouraged to shut off their flood gates and public access locations along the river have been closed.