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Sep 28, 2021   |  

KGVO: Amtrak Victims Identified – Tester Praises First Responders

By: Peter Christian

Amtrak officials have released the identities of the three victims of Saturday's fatal derailment near Joplin, Montana.

Officials identified 74-year-old Donald Varnadoe and his 72-year-old wife Marjorie of Georgia as two of the three who died in the crash. 28 year-old Zach Schneider from Illinois also died.

Montana's Senior U.S. Senator Jon Tester released a video on Twitter this week praising the response by Montana first responders, families and businesses following Saturday's deadly Amtrak train derailment near Joplin, Montana.

"This weekend tragedy struck on a westbound Empire Builder train derailed outside Joplin, Montana killing three passengers and injuring more than 50 other people," said Senator Tester. "This was an unacceptable tragedy and my heart is with all those affected and with their families and with their loved ones. The National Transportation Safety Board will thoroughly investigate this incident. And that investigation will tell us what occurred what went wrong and determine what steps must be taken to ensure it will never happen again."

Tester praised the first responders who raced to the scene.

"In the face of this horrifying incident, we also saw Montanans rush to the aid of the passengers and crew," he said. "I want to thank the first responders from Cascade County, Hill County, Toole County, Pondera County, Glacier County, Choteau County, Liberty County and Blaine County. The Great Falls Fire and Rescue was also there. The Highway Patrol and Border Patrol also answered the call and were there to secure the scene and provide medical assistance."

Tester said the local communities rallied to provide as much assistance as possible after the fatal incident.

"Across the region, medical centers faced surges of COVID-19 patients, but made space to treat the injured," he said. "Chester opened its school and Senior Citizen Center to shelter and feed folks with nowhere else to go, and the community used its local school buses to transport stranded passengers to motels in Shelby for the night. These Montanans came together to care for strangers in need, and to show the world why Montana is the very best state and the very best country in the world. Our nation owes the first responders our thanks and I want to say thank you."

Senator Steve Daines also commented following the accident.

'Tragic news. I am thankful for the first responders already on the scene and praying for the safety of all involved. I am closely monitoring this situation as details emerge'


'In the face of the terrible Amtrak accident this weekend in Joplin, I'm glad to see Montanans come together to support the passengers and offer help when needed. As the investigation continues, I'll continue to monitor the situation and keep those impacted in my thoughts.'

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railroad Administration are both investigating the derailment.

Office Contact Information

Senator Tester's Montana staff serves the state from offices in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula. Please bring your concerns with federal agencies, academy nominations, and other situations to one of these Montana offices.


Judge Jameson Federal Building
2900 4th Ave N, Suite 201
Billings, MT 59101
Phone: (406) 252-0550
Fax: (406) 252-7768


Avant Courier Building
1 E Main Street, Suite 202
Bozeman, MT 59715
Phone: (406) 586-4450
Fax: (406) 586-7647


Silver Bow Center
125 W Granite, Suite 200
Butte, MT 59701
Phone: (406) 723-3277
Fax: (406) 782-4717

Great Falls

119 1st Avenue N, Suite 102
Great Falls, MT 59401
Phone: (406) 452-9585
Fax: (406) 452-9586


208 North Montana Avenue
Suite 104
Helena, MT 59601
Phone: (406) 449-5401
Fax: (406) 449-5462


8 Third Street E
Kalispell, MT 59901
Phone: (406) 257-3360
Fax: (406) 257-3974


130 W Front St.
Missoula, MT 59802
Phone: (406) 728-3003
Fax: (406) 728-2193

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