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Train Cars Derail Along Kootenai River Near Montana-Idaho Border

The Kootenai River near Libby, MT.
Corin Cates-Carney
Montana Public Radio

Three engines and several train cars derailed Wednesday evening along the Kootenai River near Bonners Ferry, in the Idaho panhandle near the Montana border. One of the locomotives is leaking an undisclosed amount of diesel into the river, which is a tributary of the Columbia River.

The Boundary County Sheriff’s Office sent first responders to the crash site about 10 miles east of Bonners Ferry around 9 p.m. Wednesday to rescue the BNSF crew by boat. No injuries were reported.

Photos from Idaho State Police show the lead engine half submerged in the Kootenai River. In an emailed statement, BNSF says the official cause of the derailment hasn’t been determined, but says initial reports suggest a rockslide along the tracks sent the three engines and seven rail cars off the tracks.

According to BNSF and local police, containment booms have been placed in multiple locations along the river to prevent diesel from flowing downstream back into Canada. Montana state environmental officials don’t expect any upstream impacts.

BNSF says it’s working with Idaho state police, state officials and the U.S. Border Patrol and has a plan to remove the lead engine from the river as well as the other engines and cars from the embankment. The railroad said the timeline for doing so is unclear.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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