Montana Bridge Failure Leads to Train Cars in Yellowstone River

Authorities say a bridge collapse in Montana early Saturday morning sent many freight train cars plunging into the Yellowstone River. The train was transporting dangerous goods, although it is unknown if any of them leaked.

The collapse occurred around 6 a.m. local time in a portion of the river between Reed Point and Columbus, some 60 miles west of Billings. There were no reports of injuries.

At least three of the Montana Rail Link cars that toppled into the river had hot asphalt, four were transporting molten sulfur, and there was “no expected hazmat impact” to cities in the county.

Montana Rail Link stated in a statement that “both substances solidify rapidly when exposed to cooler temperatures.”

Montana Bridge Failure Leads to Train Cars in Yellowstone River

Montana Rail Link stated that two wagons containing sodium hydrogen sulfate, an acid salt, did not reach the water and that preliminary air and water testing revealed no signs of leakage.

Several local and federal agencies, including officials from the Federal Railroad Administration, were on the scene.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tweeted that he had discussed the situation with Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte and that “residents concerned about potential impacts should follow information and instructions from local authorities.”

The state Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department announced that the river will be blocked and advised boats to avoid the region.

Billings’ public works department, which borders the river, stated on Facebook Saturday afternoon that “there is very little chance of any hazardous material getting” into the city. The department first stated that its intention was “to shut down the water intake for the time it takes for any material to pass by Billings.”

In a Facebook post, the local Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office said that numerous tanker cars were “leaking petroleum products near the Yellowstone River.” However, the local publication, Stillwater County News, later stated that none of the freight cars were carrying oil.

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