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A bridge over Yellowstone River collapses, sending a freight train into the waters below

A bridge over Yellowstone River collapses, sending a freight train into the waters below


A bridge over Yellowstone River collapses, sending a freight train into the waters below

COLUMBUS, Mont. (AP) — A bridge that crosses Yellowstone River in Montana collapsed early Saturday morning, causing portions of a freight train carrying hazardous materials to plunge into the flooded river below, officials said.

The train cars were carrying asphalt and sulfur, said David Stamey, Stillwater County’s chief of emergency services. Officials shut down drinking water intakes downstream while they evaluated the danger. An Associated Press reporter witnessed a yellow liquid pouring out of tank cars.

However, Stamey said there was no immediate danger for the crews working at the site, and the hazardous material was being diluted by the swollen river.

The train crew was safe and no injuries were reported after the bridge collapse, according to a statement from Andy Garland, spokesman for the Montana Rail Link.

Garland said “several” tank cars were partially submerged in the river early Saturday, and railroad crews were at the scene in Stillwater County, near the town of Columbus, about 40 miles (about 64 kilometers) west of Billings.

“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,” Garland said.

In neighboring Yellowstone County, officials said they instituted emergency measures at water treatment plants due to the “potential hazmat spill” and asked residents to conserve water.

The cause of the collapse is under investigation, he said.

The site is in a sparsely populated area in the Yellowstone River Valley. It is about 110 miles (177 kilometers) northeast of Yellowstone National Park.

The Montana Disaster Emergency Services has been notified. Federal Railroad Administrators officials were at the scene.

The river was swollen with recent heavy rains although it is unclear whether that contributed to the bridge collapse.

Kelly Hitchcock of the Columbus Water Users shut off the flow of river water into an irrigation ditch downstream from the collapsed bridge to prevent contents from the tank cars from reaching nearby farmland.

Hitchcock said the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office called the group Saturday morning to warn it about the collapse.

Yellowstone saw record flooding in 2022 that caused extensive damage to Yellowstone National Park and adjacent towns in Montana.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that sulfur is a common element used as a fertilizer as well as an insecticide, fungicide and rodenticide.