This aerial view taken Sunday, shows part of an Amtrak train that derailed in north-central Montana Saturday that killed multiple people and left others hospitalized, officials said. The westbound Empire Builder was en route to Seattle from Chicago, with two locomotives and 10 cars, when it left the tracks about 4 p.m. Saturday.
JOPLIN, Mont. — A team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board was at the site of an Amtrak derailment in north-central Montana that killed three people and left seven hospitalized Sunday, officials said.
The westbound Empire Builder was en route from Chicago to Seattle when it left the tracks about 4 p.m. Saturday near Joplin, a town of about 200.
Trevor Fossen was first on the scene. The Joplin resident was on a dirt road nearing the tracks Saturday when he saw “a wall of dust” about 300 feet high.
“I started looking at that, wondering what it was and then I saw the train had tipped over and derailed,” said Fossen, who called 911 and started trying to get people out. He called his brother to bring ladders for people who couldn’t get down after exiting through the windows of cars resting on their sides.
The train was carrying about 141 passengers and 16 crew members and had two locomotives and 10 cars, eight of which derailed, Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams said.
A 14-member team including investigators and specialists in railroad signals would look into the cause of the derailment on a BNSF Railway main track that involved no other trains or equipment, said NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss.
Law enforcement said the officials from the NTSB, Amtrak and BNSF had arrived at the accident scene just west of Joplin, where the tracks cut through vast, golden brown wheat fields that were recently harvested. Several large cranes were brought to the tracks that run roughly parallel to U.S. Highway 2, along with a truckload of gravel and new railroad ties.
Several rail cars could still be seen on their sides.
The accident scene is about 150 miles northeast of Helena and about 30 miles from the Canadian border.
Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn expressed condolences to those who lost loved ones and said the company is working with the NTSB, Federal Railroad Administration and local law enforcement, sharing their “sense of urgency” to determine what happened.
“The NTSB will identify the cause or causes of this accident, and Amtrak commits to taking appropriate actions to prevent a similar accident in the future,” Flynn said in the statement.
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte said BNSF was readying replacement track for when the NTSB gives the go-head. “BNSF has assured me they can get the line up and running in short order,” he said.
Railroad safety expert David Clarke, director of the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Tennessee, said accident scene photos show the derailment occurred at or near a switch, which is where the railway goes from a single track to a double track.
Clarke said the two locomotives and two cars at the front of the train reached the split and continued on the main track, but the remaining eight cars derailed. He said it was unclear if some of the last cars moved onto the second track.
“Did the switch play some role? It might have been that the front of the train hit the switch and it started fish-tailing and that flipped the back part of the train,” Clarke said.
Another possibility was a defect in the rail, Clarke said, noting that regular testing doesn’t always catch such problems. He said speed was not a likely factor because trains on that line have systems that prevent excessive speeds and collisions.
Matt Jones, a BNSF Railway spokesman said at a news conference that the track where the accident occurred was last inspected Thursday.
Because of the derailment, Sunday’s westbound Empire Builder from Chicago will terminate in St. Paul, Minn., and the eastbound train will originate in Minnesota.
Most of those on the train were treated and released for their injuries, but five who were more seriously hurt remained at the Benefis Health System hospital in Great Falls, Mont., said Sarah Robbin, Liberty County emergency services coordinator. Two were in the intensive care unit, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Another two people were at Logan Health, a hospital in Kalispell, Mont., spokeswoman Melody Sharpton said.
Robbin said emergency crews struggled without success to cut open cars with special tools, “so they did have to manually carry out many of the passengers that could not walk.”
Liberty County Sheriff Nick Erickson said the names of the dead would not be released until relatives are notified.
In this photo provided by Kimberly Fossen, people work at the scene of an Amtrak train derailment on Saturday in north-central Montana. Multiple people were injured when the train that runs between Seattle and Chicago derailed Saturday, the train agency said.
Robbin said nearby residents rushed to offer help when the derailment occurred.
“We are so fortunate to live where we do, where neighbors help neighbors,” she said.
“The locals have been so amazing and accommodating,” passenger Jacob Cordeiro said on Twitter. “They provided us with food, drinks, and wonderful hospitality. Nothing like it when the best comes together after a tragedy.”
Cordeiro, who is from Rhode Island, just graduated from college and was traveling with his father to Seattle to celebrate.
“I was in one of the front cars and we got badly jostled, thrown from one side of the train to the other,” he told MSNBC. He said the car left the tracks, but did not fall over.
“I’m a pretty big guy and it picked me up from my chair and threw me into one wall and then threw me into the other wall,” Cordeiro said.
Chester Councilwoman Rachel Ghekiere said she and others helped about 50 to 60 passengers who were brought to a school..”
A grocery store in Chester, about 5 miles from the derailment, and a nearby religious community provided food, she said.
Allan Zarembski, director of the University of Delaware’s Railway Engineering and Safety Program, said he didn’t want to speculate but suspected the derailment stemmed from an issue with the train track, equipment, or both.
Railways have “virtually eliminated” major derailments by human error after the implementation of positive train control nationwide, Zarembski said. He said NTSB findings could take months.
Bob Chipkevich, who oversaw railroad crash investigations for several years at the NTSB, said the agency won’t rule out human error or any other potential causes for now.
“There are still human performance issues examined by NTSB to be sure that people doing the work are qualified and rested and doing it properly,” Chipkevich said.
Chipkevich said track conditions have historically been a significant cause of train accidents and noted most of the track Amtrak uses is owned by freight railroads and must depend on those companies for safety maintenance.
Anthony Hamilton performs on Sept. 16 in New York City. Love Is The New Black is his first full length album in five years.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images
Theo Wargo/Getty Images
Multi-platinum singer-songwriter Anthony Hamilton is back with a new album. Love Is The New Black is his first full length album in five years — one fans have been anxiously awaiting.
Hamilton is the self-described “country boy” from North Carolina whose vulnerable lyrics and gospel-tinged delivery have gained him fans across the globe. Many were introduced to Hamilton through his popular Tiny Desk performance in 2016. Some were fans way before that — as Hamilton says, “when only 10 people knew about me.”
NPR’s Michel Martin welcomed Hamilton back to NPR to talk about his latest album, and about his creative process during the pandemic.
Here are excerpts, including web-only extended answers:
Does it feel like you’re a veteran by now or does it feel like people are still discovering you? It sometimes feels like you are everyone’s “little secret.”
I feel like a veteran, like an O.G. as the young entertainers call me — but I also feel like there are a lot of people who are still getting to know about Anthony Hamilton, and some people who who’ve never heard any of my music. I guess it’s good to be both. But, I get that a lot. It’s like, “I found him first!” or “I heard him first!” It’s cool, though. It’s good to be more than just a just a name thrown out there.
I think it’s a different kind of comfort that I bring. The down-home. And you know, when it’s something so good, you don’t want everybody to have it, so you let it out in little secrets. … I’m like “the Soul Man Whisperer.”
A lot of artists have found themselves creating a different type of music in quarantine and reflecting on things around them. You have a song on this album called “Mama Don’t Cry” that’s responding to recent events. What was going through your mind?
You see what’s unfolding in the news and around you in your city with the racial divide, and you’re just stuck in the house with the pandemic, and you become real sensitive. And just being a Black man, it made me think of George Floyd. At first I was going to name the song George Floyd. It was that place that made me want to write this particular song.
We wanted to touch the heart strings of people, and to let them know we’re losing a lot of people. But mama don’t cry, papa don’t cry. Be proud of me. I made it. I’m on the other side now. Don’t cry for me. Just ride for me. Go out and do something, celebrate, and make something happen in my memory.
In the last year, a lot of artists have had to cancel tours or find different ways to work. Do you have any other thoughts about how this last year and a half affected you as a creative?
This whole last year allowed me to see that I don’t have to rush things. I don’t have to beat the streets so much and abuse myself, in terms of over-committing to things that may or may not move the needle one way or another. It taught me to really be intentional about what I want to say, to be intentional about the message I want to get out. There’s a lot of noise. And so I took that time to really focus on: How do I want to say this? What do I really want to say? And you know, you get to know your strengths and you get to know your weaknesses so you can create from another place.
One of the things people value about you is that they think that you allow yourself to express vulnerability in ways that other artists do not. A lot of their songs are about sex, and a lot of your songs are about love and relationships. Do you feel like these last months intensified that for you or your willingness to be vulnerable?
We’ve all been made to feel sensitive and powerless in this last two years. Even the richest person had to be humble and become something other than what money could do for them. So that we were all vulnerable. And I know a lot of people were losing relationships and marriages were busting up. And I wanted to help people to focus on some of the stuff that could really help you get back to your healthier self and, you know, find love and look at love different. Like you may have it there, but you’re focusing on the wrong thing. That makes me feel like I have a job that I could have for a long time because I don’t mind exposing what I’ve been through. I don’t mind allowing myself to be, you know, the blueprint for a man who needs work.
I think there’s a strength in knowing that here I am in my complete self. If I had a relationship where I wasn’t my best me and maybe I drank a little too much bourbon, it’s OK. You know, my marriage didn’t work. It wasn’t perfect, but it’s OK. I’m not bound to those moments.
You had a long road to getting where you are. Do you remember the “before times”?
Those were some of the best times of my life before the music came out. I’ve had some great times since I’ve been successful or so-called “made it.” But before that, oh man! Like who’s getting the last bag of Oodles of Noodles, who got the last piece of chicken and the last piece of white bread? Oh my god, you’re talking about a trophy! Look, those are some of the best times and not knowing how you were going to get that pair of shoes or how you were going to get inside the club, how you were going to meet this young lady when you didn’t have nothing real fly to wear or nothing real fly to say. You had to make it work! So there’s power in in the beginning as well.
Your duet with Jennifer Hudson, “Superstar,” has been a hit for a lot of people, most notably Luther Vandross in 1983. Why did you pick this one?
This is one of my all-time favorite songs. I was a huge fan of Luther Vandross. I didn’t understand how he could sing so controlled, yet still give you chills and that emotion as if he was wailing off, like a gospel singer. It just lured me in, and I became such a huge fan of that record, so I was like, “You know what? I want to redo that song.” I’ve always wanted to redo it.
I think it’s something that people don’t even know that they’ve been waiting for. And I’m glad we didn’t try and out-sing each other on it. We didn’t have to do all that! We just kept it classy. And we sang the hell out of it.
You recently published your first book, Corn Bread, Fish and Collard Greens.
It’s not a cookbook, it’s a tabletop book. It’s a loosely autobiographical, but it’s more about the music, the man, the writer and the songs that you love. Like Charlene, the real-life story about the heartbreak and all that. And it tells the story of my life as a child at my grandmother’s house behind the big green couch where I used to dream of being an entertainer. And there are some recipes in the book. My cabbage is amazing. My curry corn is really, really good. My potato salad is bangin’.
Janaya Williams and Sami Yenigun produced and edited the audio interview.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel receives applause during the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) election event on Sunday in Berlin. Voters have gone to the polls nationwide in elections that herald the end of Merkel’s 16-year chancellorship.
Clemens Bilan/Pool/Getty Images
Clemens Bilan/Pool/Getty Images
BERLIN – Germany’s two largest parties have emerged from Sunday’s election in what amounts to a dead heat, according to preliminary results. The first projected results released by national broadcaster ARD put the country’s center-left Social Democrats at 24.9%, just two-tenths of a percentage point ahead of Merkel’s center-right party.
Another exit poll released by broadcaster ZDF showed a slightly wider gap between the top two parties, with the Social Democrats, the SPD, at 25.7% and the center-right party, the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union, at 24.6%. While the results are only preliminary, they underscore how difficult it will be for Germany’s top parties to form a coalition government. And whenever one is formed, it’s likely to be a three-party coalition, the first in recent memory.
However, hours after the polls closed, it was unclear what form that coalition would take or whether it would be led by Social Democrat chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz, or by Armin Laschet, the candidate from Merkel’s CDU party.
“We, as the Christian Democratic Union, have received a clear mandate from our voters that a vote cast for the Union is a vote cast against a left government,” said Laschet to cheers from party members soon after the first results were released. “And this is why we will do all we can to form a German government led by the Christian Democratic Union.”
German SPD candidate for chancellor Olaf Scholz waves on stage at the Social Democratic Party (SPD) headquarters after the estimates were broadcast in Berlin on Sunday.
Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images
Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images
Meanwhile at the Social Democratic Party headquarters, chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz spoke to hundreds of jubilant supporters. “Being pragmatic, being optimistic and joining ranks: This is what we will show in the time ahead, and this is what is important,” he said. “And I’m sure that the citizens of this country will be glad they voted the way they did when they voted for the Social Democrats. We will deliver on our promises. So let’s wait until the final election results, but then we will get down to business.”
The Social Democrats appeared to make big gains compared to the last German election in 2017, but they weren’t alone. The environmentalist Green Party also appeared to receive more votes than last time, but fell short of having its own shot at the chancellery. The CDU/CSU lost support, and is heading for the worst result since its formation in 1945.
Given the narrow margins, it’s possible tabulating the final election results in Sunday’s election will take longer than expected, as will the more difficult work of negotiating between the prevailing parties to form a new coalition government.
Sunday’s election was the first in Germany’s post-war history when an incumbent chancellor did not stand for reelection. Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to step down once the next government is formed, but after an election as close as this one, that could take many months.
People queue in front of a polling station in the Moabit district of Berlin, Germany. German voters are choosing a new parliament in an election that will determine who succeeds Chancellor Angela Merkel after her 16 years at the helm of Europe’s biggest economy.
Early exit polls from Germany show an extremely close race between the center-left Social Democratic Party and the center-right Christian Democratic Union, in an election that will decide the next chancellor of the country after 16 years of Angela Merkel in office.
Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its partner, the Christian Social Union, have 25% of the vote, placing them in a tie with the Social Democratic Party. Following behind is the Greens with 15%.
Further updates in the numbers are expected as the tallying continues Sunday in Germany.
Polls opened at 8 a.m. local time and closed at 6 p.m. There may be more delays than usual in counting ballots this year due to the pandemic and the number of voters who participated in mail-in voting, analysts say.
The latest polling leading up to election day showed the Social Democratic Party narrowly ahead of Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union partnership. The Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany party, were following behind, as was the Free Democratic Party, which is more libertarian.
Of the higher-polling parties, theleading contenders to succeed Merkel are the Social Democrats’ Olaf Scholz, the Christian Democrats’ Armin Laschet and Annalena Baerbock of the Greens.
Economic issues and concerns over how to handle climate change are some of the top concerns among voters in this election. It’s a tight race so far, which has some voters still torn over how to vote — even on election day.
“I’m very torn. I like Scholz because of his initiative on taxes for the international minimum tax level, but I’m not so sure how strong they’ll be on climate,” first-time-voter Vessela Hristova told NPR.
Scholz currently serves as the German finance minister and vice chancellor.
Even with the uncertainty surrounding this year’s election, some voters in Berlin — a more liberal leaning city compared to Merkel’s conservative leaning politics — say they will not miss Merkel in office.
“Maybe when we see what will be the result of this election, maybe we will miss her! I don’t know. She’s not my chancellor,” Katja Lucke told NPR.
In the German election system, parties may have to form coalitions to determine a majority. And in this year’s election, it could result in three parties forming a coalition, a rarity in German politics.
Rob Scmitz contributed reporting from Berlin.
NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro speaks with Felix Contreras and Anamaria Sayre about their Alt.Latino Tiny Desk takeover for Hispanic Heritage Month.
A JetBlue aircraft sits on the tarmac. The company is one of many commercial airlines to experience unruly passenger incidents over the past year.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg via Getty Images
The FBI is investigating an incident aboard a JetBlue flight where witnesses say a passenger violently assaulted a flight attendant while attempting to enter the flight galley and cockpit.
According to an FBI affidavit obtained from The Daily Beast, the incident occurred Wednesday evening on Flight 261 en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Boston.
The passenger reportedly ran to the front of the plane about 45 minutes before touching down in San Juan and yelled for crew members to shoot him. Witnesses told the FBI that after becoming violent, multiple crew members restrained him.
Once the plane landed, the man was arrested for interference with flight crew members and attendants, which is considered a federal offense.
The altercation comes as commercial airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration continue working to lower the number of unruly passengers on planes — a number that drastically increased compared to last year, with fines totaling over $1 million.
According to the FBI’s affidavit, a flight attendant initially stopped the man from entering the galley by confining him to an area in front of the first row of seating on the plane.
Witnesses said that as the flight attendant worked to restrain him, the man became aware that a flight crew officer had opened the cockpit door and, in response, he began to kick and punch the flight attendant trying to hold him back. He also began choking the flight attendant by his tie.
The FBI report details that the flight attendant let go of the man to avoid asphyxiating but grabbed him again before he got to the galley.
The man was then restrained by six or seven crew members, using “makeshift restraints,” including the flight attendant’s tie, according to the FBI affidavit.
For the rest of the flight, he was moved to a back seat of the plane and handcuffed with flex cuffs and held by seat belt extenders.
As of Friday, the man remained in custody in Puerto Rico, FBI Public Affairs Officer Limary Cruz-Rubio told The Washington Post, adding that the FBI continues to investigate the situation and takes the incident “very seriously.”
Unruly passenger violations have steadily gone down compared to earlier this year, according to FAA data.
Each week in February and March, approximately 12 unruly passenger incidents were reported for every 10,000 flights. Since then, numbers have dropped and now rest at about six incidents per 10,000 flights.
Opposition to wearing face masks made up nearly 73% of all incidents over the year.
As part of the push to avoid further unruly passenger incidents, Delta Airlines released a memo on Thursday advocating for airline companies to release the names of individuals on their “no-fly” lists.
“A list of banned customers doesn’t work as well if that customer can fly with another airline, ” the memo stated.
The company also said it passed over 600 names of those barred from their flights to the FAA, adding that their list stands at 1,600.
On the same day of Delta’s announcement, individuals representing airline and flight attendant advocacy organizations testified in front of the U.S. House Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation, urging lawmakers to assist in curbing incidents.
“Every level of threat requires vigilance and scrutiny,” Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, wrote in her written testimony.
“We cannot be lulled into a place of accepting these distractions as a new normal,” she added.
National Hurricane Center
A storm brewing in the Atlantic is now a “major hurricane,” but forecasters say it currently poses little threat to land.
The National Hurricane Center said Saturday that Sam was bringing wind speeds higher than 110 miles per hour, the threshold for a storm to be dubbed a major hurricane.
It’s the fourth storm to receive such a designation this year, according to Andy Latto, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center.
With winds speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour, Sam was a Category 3 hurricane and was expected to become a Category 4 (wind speeds between 130 and 156 miles per hour) by Sunday.
As of late Saturday morning, Hurricane Sam was located about 1,000 miles east-southeast of the Northern Leeward Islands and about 630 miles northeast of the French Guiana coast, moving west-northwest at 10 miles per hour.
No coastal warnings or watches are in effect — and while Hurricane Sam is currently delivering strong winds, it’s not likely to make landfall in the Caribbean or mainland United States.
“There’s an upward trough — a cold front — going through the southeastern United States already,” Latto told NPR. “The associated trough that helps drive that front will help turn this system to the north later on, sometime by the early to middle parts of next week.”
Latto said there is a slight chance the hurricane would hit Bermuda, but modeling currently shows it’s likely to miss the island.
He also noted that this is the time of the year when forecasters begin to shift their focus from the eastern Atlantic basin near Africa to the western part of the ocean.
“Even though something like Sam most likely won’t be reaching the United States, keep vigilant and keep and eye on things — because there is always a secondary peak that comes from the western part of the basin later on,” Latto said.
RICHMOND, Va. — Eight Virginia Commonwealth University students have been charged with hazing in a fraternity pledge’s death from alcohol poisoning after a party earlier this year, officials said Friday.
The eight men arrested Friday range in age from 19 to 22, police said. All are charged with unlawful hazing of a student and four are also charged with buying and giving alcohol to a minor. Seven were held without bond at the Richmond Justice Center. The eighth was arrested in Prince William County and released on bond. Three others who were indicted are expected to surrender in the coming days, police said.
The university confirmed that all eight were students and all but one were enrolled this semester. The student code of conduct allows for sanctions up to and including expulsion, the university said in a statement, but it can’t share potential disciplinary information, if any, about specific students.
The indictments come nearly seven months after 19-year-old Adam Oakes of Loudoun County died. The office of the chief medical examiner ruled that his death was caused by alcohol poisoning.
Oakes had received a bid to the Delta Chi fraternity and attended a party where he would receive his “big brother” the night before his death. Oakes was told to drink a large bottle of whiskey and later passed out on a couch at an off-campus residence, his family said. He was found dead the next morning.
Richmond police, campus police and the university launched investigations. The chapter was suspended by the university and the fraternity’s national headquarters and in June VCU expelled the fraternity.
Last month, the university announced that it would ban alcohol at fraternity and sorority events, publish misconduct instances online and pause new member recruitment. On the same day, two investigations of university Greek life on campus were released, finding that there are concerns about hazing and binge drinking at the university and staff has struggled to address them.
“VCU continues to mourn the tragic death of Adam Oakes and is grateful to the Richmond Police Department for its investigation,” the university said in a statement. “VCU is dedicated to continuing its efforts, announced this summer, to promote a safe and welcoming fraternity and sorority life culture for all.”
Oakes’ family expressed their gratitude in a statement, news outlets reported.
“We are grateful for some measure of justice these charges and arrests may produce, as well as the protection from hazing they may give young, impressionable college students,” the statement read. “The past seven months have been agonizing for our family. This is the first time these young men have been held accountable for their historically toxic and destructive traditions, manipulation of the VCU disciplinary systems, and for Adam’s death.”
The fraternity’s national office said in a statement that it was aware that former members of the indefinitely suspended chapter had been arrested.
“The alleged actions of these individuals are an affront to the values of Delta Chi. Our policies are clear as it relates to the expected conduct of members including that no member shall engage in or condone acts of hazing,” the fraternity said. “No family should ever have to experience what the Oakes family has experienced.”
Bluegrass phenom Billy Strings talks about his new album, Renewal.
The Haunted Mine Drop is shown in this July 2017 file photo at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs, Colo. A recent investigation revealed a 6-year-old girl on vacation with her family died earlier this month after operators of the vertical drop ride did not properly check her seatbelts.
A 6-year-old Colorado girl fell to her death at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs earlier this month after ride operators failed to properly check her seatbelts, state officials said.
Wongel Estifanos of Colorado Springs, Colo., died from her injuries on Sept. 5 after investigators said she fell 110 feet from the Haunted Mine Drop ride.
Estifanos was visiting the amusement park during Labor Day weekend while on vacation with her family.
In a report from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, state investigators say the child was sitting on top of two seat belts previously buckled on the ride instead of wearing them properly them across her lap.
State investigators said an alarm system warned workers of the issue, but two of the workers, who had been hired within the past two months, weren’t properly trained to fix the issue.
One of the workers reset the system and began to dispatch the ride, investigators said.
“Safety is, and always has been, our top priority,” park officials told KDVR-TV.
Park officials told the local broadcaster they’re continuing to work closely with Colorado Department of Labor and Employment safety experts who are reviewing the incident.
The Haunted Mine Drop, which opened in July 2017, is referred to as the first drop ride to go underground, dropping riders 110 feet inside of Iron Mountain.