A freight train derailed in the small town of Columbus, Montana, after a bridge over the Yellowstone River caught fire and collapsed. The incident caused at least two train cars to spill into the river, resulting in the release of potentially hazardous materials and the closing down of the nearby river for environmental testing.
Update to previous posts: 10:45 a.m. - The Stillwater River is closed from White Bird Fishing Access Site to the confluence with the Yellowstone River.
From Twin Bridges Road to Buffalo Mirage FAS, the public should avoid the water due to potential contaminants. pic.twitter.com/b0gYDJbx9f
— Montana FWP (@MontanaFWP) June 24, 2023
“We are committed to addressing any potential impacts to the area as a result of this incident and working to understand the reasons behind the accident,” said Montana Rail Link spokesman Andrew Garland.
An Associated Press reporter described an unknown yellow liquid pouring out of one of the train cars that had fallen into the river. Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale has been in contact with federal, state, and local officials to assess the situation. No immediate threats have been detected so far and Rosendale warns residents to stay away from the areas around the Yellowstone River Rail Bridge.
To protect farms near the river and the surrounding environment, an irrigation trench has been shut down and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks has closed sections of multiple rivers, citing “potential contaminants in the area.”
“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,” said Columbus Fire Chief Rich Cowger and County DES Chief David Stamey.
This accident follows a similar crash over 2,000 miles away in Ohio earlier this year that released a chemical spill that contaminated the rural town of East Palestine. The incident drew national attention and caused many citizens to experience symptoms such as nausea and dizziness.
In response, Rep. Matt Rosendale and Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH) joined forces to create the Railway Safety Act of 2023. The proposal aims to increase safety standards for hazardous cargo-bearing trains and increase fines for safety violations.
“I encourage Congress to take swift action on the Railway Safety Act of 2023,” said Sen. Vance. “This accident in Montana is yet another example of why our infrastructure needs to be better managed and maintained in order to prevent future disasters.”
At this moment, there are no reports of injuries or casualties stemming from the Montana incident. Precautions are still being taken to ensure the safety of area residents and investigate the source of the spill. An ongoing environmental protection operation is also in effect at the scene.
🚨 #BREAKING: A large emergency response is underway after a freight train collapsed into the Yellowstone River in Montana
“Hazardous materials” are feared to be spilling into the river, and officials are are warning residents to begin limiting water usage IMMEDIATELY pic.twitter.com/bIbB3PDeEk
— Nick Sortor (@nicksortor) June 24, 2023