Local And Regional News

Jul 7, 2014 9:34 AM by Brenda Bassett - Missoula

Rafters get close-up view of derailed airplane parts in Montana river

NEAR SUPERIOR -- Crews are still working to remove the airplane components that fell into the Clark Fork River west of Missoula after a train derailed on Thursday.

The Montana Rail Link train was en-route from Kansas to Washington when it derailed about 18 miles east of Superior at about 4 p.m. on Thursday.

Nineteen cars went off the track. Three cars that were carrying Boeing Aircraft components fell into the Lower Clark Fork River. Boeing says the parts were for 737, 777, and 747 aircraft on their way to the Seattle area for final assembly.

Seven rail cars were empty while three were carrying soybeans, and another three contained denatured alcohol, none of which hit the water.

Montana Rail Link spokesperson Lynda Frost says cleanup may not be an easy task due to the height and steepness of the river banks.

"We hope to get one out of there today, and it looks like we'll be going through Monday into Tuesday before we get everything out of there," said Frost.

Not far from where the derailment happened is Zoo Town Surfers, a company that takes guided rafting trips on the Clark Fork.

Jason Shreder, owner of Zoo Town Surfers, says his business hasn't been hurt, and is glad the river is still open.

"Trains come through here often and they're pretty noisy, so when we heard the derailment we knew something was wrong," said Shreder.

"Because we'd been out here, we'd seen that there was adequate safety and that there really was a very low risk," continued Shreder. "So it was great that they re-opened the river because this is the time of year you want to be on the river."

For at least one white-water adventurer, the sight of the wreckage left a lasting impression.

"We go on the river quite a bit, but this was our first time rafting the gorge," said rafter Melissa Vawter. "We had quite the view, it was really interesting. I just kind of thought it was crazy."

And though the wreck may look bad, Shreder chooses to look on the bright side.

"The way I see it, it could have been a lot worse with some toxic chemicals that could have really damaged the Clark Fork River, and I feel like we're constantly trying to clean the river up so it would have been a real bummer to put more waste into the river that we've been trying to clean up for the past ten years," said Shreder.

Several agencies are continuing to monitor the area including Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks.

The cause of the derailment is still being investigated.

David Shearer shared this video on YouTube of a group of rafters coming across the airplane fuselages in the river on July 4th:

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