Trains With Potentially Hazardous Material Crash Into Montana River
GARDINER, MT - MAY 6, 2023 - The Yellowstone River flows though the Paradise Valley north of Gardiner, Montana May 6, 2023. Mining activity in the area could potentially contaminate the river.
Photo by Natalie Behring for the Washington Post.

Several train cars crashed into a Montana river after a railway bridge collapsed, causing at least some potentially hazardous material to spill into the river. 

A bridge over the Yellowstone River collapsed under the weight of an overnight freight train, causing several train cars to fall into the river, prompting an investigation. A reporter for the Associated Press saw an unknown yellow liquid pouring out of one of the cars and into the river.  

“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 Andy Garland.

The incident occurred over 100 miles northeast of Yellowstone National Park, and 40 miles west of Billings, Montana, near the small rural town of Columbus. There were no incidents from the derailment. 

“I am tracking the train derailment over the Yellowstone River in Stillwater County. My office has been in touch with local, state, and federal officials,” Montana Congressman Matt Rosendale said. “At this time, there is no immediate threat, but please try to keep away from the areas around the Yellowstone River Rail Bridge.”


To protect nearby farms from hazardous runoff, an irrigation trench was shut off and closed down. 

Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks closed down portions of multiple rivers, warning people of “potential contaminants.” 

Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Department posted an update on Facebook, telling residents to stay away from the scene to avoid congestion. 

“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,” the sheriff’s office posted on Facebook. “Both of the substances are described as ‘slow moving’ and have not gone much past the initial scene, said Columbus Fire Chief Rich Cowger and County DES Chief David Stamey.”

The railway crash in Montana follows a very high-profile crash in East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this year that triggered a chemical spill that contaminated the area around the small town on February 3. The accident drew national attention as residents reported symptoms of nausea and dizziness and regional water supplies across several neighboring states showed signs of contamination.

In response, freshman Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH) helped draft The Railway Safety Act of 2023 to increase safety requirements for trains carrying hazardous cargo and increase fines for safety violations.

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