A great "Thank You" goes out tonight on this first day of 2020 as emergency responders from across the region responded to the derailment of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Train in a remote location on the Kootenai River at around 9 p.m.
Crewman radioed dispatch that they were trapped in the engine in the river, and sinking.
Beset by heavy fog and lack of access, emergency responders from nearly every county agency, BNSF and Two Bear Air managed to quickly share information to most effectively respond. A BNSF rescue train with a crew was sent in as local emergency responders raced to find the best way to reach the site, across the Kootenai River from Settlers Lane in the Silver Springs area just west of the Montana line.
As personnel were trying to find the best way to reach the site, a property owner at the end of Settlers Lane with access to the north shore of the Kootenai River unlocked his gate, called dispatch and let them know crews were welcome.
The first to arrive found the lead engine in the water, the two-man Spokane crew sitting on top, the second engine upright but half in the water. The 113 cars, seven containing hazardous materials, stayed upright.
By 11 p.m., the two crew members, neither injured, were safely aboard a county waterways jet boat and on their way to dry land.
BNSF personnel are now working to pull the engine from the water, contain the fuel spilled in the river and clear the track, and will likely be working into tomorrow, assisted by local firefighter and others.
What follows is the narrative reported as the story unfolded.
9:01 p.m.: Emergency crews are responding to a Burlington Northern train derailment across the Kootenai River from Silver Spring Road with the engine in the water with two or three crew members trapped inside; the engine is filling with water.
9:13 p.m.: Emergency personnel are trying to find a way to reach the derailment; boats are being launched with divers but the is no road access to the crash as the area is extremely remote.
9:15 p.m.: Crews will be staging on Crossport Road; expect heavy activity in the area.
9:17 p.m.: Another train is approaching from the west; attempts are being made to stop it. 9:23 p.m.: The train stopped; it is there to assist with the rescue of the trapped crew and see if it can bring the engine out of the water.
9:31 p.m.: The Sheriff's Office is request all non-essential people to stay out of the area of Crossport Road and Katka Road to Toboggan Lane.
9:36 p.m.: A Silver Springs Road resident with access to the river has notified the sheriff's office that he has opened the gate to allow access for equipment and boats. Those in the area can expect heavy activity. The railroad has confirmed that there are hazardous materials in the cars, but none have gone into the river.
9:42 p.m.: Personnel on scene said the engine is in the water, all cars are still on the track and upright and the crew is safe and sitting atop the engine waiting to be rescued.
9:44 p.m.: Boundary Waterways craft Marine One is about 15 minutes from the scene, but personnel on scene said the lead engine is settling into the water.
9:58 p.m.: Marine One has reached the scene.
10:08 p.m.: The 9:58 report was in error; Marine One is still attempting to get through shallows to reach the engine.
10:13 p.m.: Two Bear Air Rescue from Montana is en route to the scene.
10:21 p.m.: This is a 113 car train with seven cars containing hazardous materials; it doesn't appear that any of those seven are in danger of spilling.
10:24 p.m.: A boat that looks like Marine One is now in sight of those at the scene, but they are not in radio contact.
10:29 p.m.: A second jet boat crew en route to the scene reports oil on the water upriver from Twin Rivers Canyon Resort; additional booms are to be deployed by BNSF above Bonners Ferry.
10:48 p.m.: Boat crews are preparing to attempt to bring the train crew off he engine and into the jet boat.
10:50 p.m.: The two-member crew is safe on the Waterways craft and heading to Twin Rivers. Neither was injured.