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ESSEX, MT – A BNSF train derailed about 4 miles west of Essex, MT in a mountainous area amidst cold weather and snow shortly before noon on Wednesday, March 9, 2011.

Blocked tracks and jammed rail cars at the scene of a BNSF train derailment near Essex, MT on Wednesday, Mar 9, 2011. Photo credit: Flathead County Sheriff's Office

Essex is in Flathead County, Montana in the northwestern part of the state near Glacier National Park and about 170 miles northwest of Great Falls.

A total of 19 cars in a 115-car freight train jumped the tracks and caused the Amtak passenger service plus freight train traffic in the area to be delayed until the tracks were cleared. One of the rail cars tumbled downhill and came to rest near the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Location of Essex, Montana near the site of the BNSF train derailment that occurred on Wednesday, March 9, 2011.

The train was hauling general merchandise and was enroute from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Pasco, Washington.

No injuries have been reported as a result of the mishap and fortunately, there were no railroad worker injuries. Initially there was some concern by the County Sherrif that hazardous materials could have been involved, but it turned out that this was not the case.

Originally, it was determined by officials from BNSF that the cause of the mishap was due to a rock, mud and snow slide, but was later ruled out. The company has not yet determined the cause of the incident, but it remains under investigation.

According to an article at the website, Sheriff Chuck Curry from the Flathead County Sheriff commented about the incident:

Flathead County Sheriff’s personnel surveyed the wreckage from a helicopter, and it did not appear to have been caused by a snow slide

The article went on to say:

Curry said there has been an elevated concern about avalanches in the corridor because most slopes have been overloaded with snow through most of the winter.

The derailment occurred in an area outside the avalanche-prone zone in the Middle Fork Flathead River corridor.

Equipment was brought in from Havre and Billings to assist with the efforts to reopen the track

Information was also provided in the article by BNSF spokesman, Gus Melonas:

Melonas said some cars were being re-railed and others were being pushed to the side to make room for track repairs.

Reports on the mishap indicate that a 24 hour delay was to be expected to allow time for repair crews to clear the tracks. Crews were hoping to have the tracks cleared, repaired and reopened by Friday at 6 a.m. in the morning.

Published by FELA lawyer Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP

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