CHESTER — Small-town Montana is known for being friendly and cooperative and that was put on full display when disaster hit in Liberty County on Saturday.
An Amtrak train derailed between the towns of Joplin and Chester, killing three people and injuring dozens.
Community members quickly jumped in to help, as they always do in a crisis, and were able to help survivors off the train and provide comfort to them.
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CJ Maan is one of those people and runs the Chester supermarket with his family. He said they brought food and supplies right off their shelves to give to people who needed it and said that is what Chester is all about.
“Everyone knows everyone here and they’re always willing to help out. We knew they needed food so grabbed it off the shelf along with band-aids, drinks, anything you can think of, and got it out there,” Maan said.
Liberty County residents have not seen anything like this in a long time but their response to the incident saved many lives and showed just how tight-knit the Hi-Line communities are.
Trevor Fossen lives outside of Chester and was on his way to a wedding when he saw the train come off the tracks. He said it didn’t take long for help to show up and people immediately got to helping.
“I’m used to people helping like this coming from a small community,” Fossen said over the phone. “I called and told my brother to grab the ladders so we could help get them down. Lots of people pitched in and that’s just what we do.”
Jeremiah Johnson is another Chester resident who was one of the first people to arrive. He described it as “just madness and dust flying.”
“That’s the best part of small-town Montana, is people stepping up and doing anything we can to help,” Johnson said.
Chester City Council member Scott Ross said that he isn’t surprised by the response of everyone and that he’s never experienced a night like that one before: “I told my wife what was going on and we jumped up and headed out.”
Incidents like this are something you can’t ever plan for, but there will always be plenty of people ready and willing to help.
“If it happens again, we know that everybody’s here,” Ross said.
The National Transportation Safety Board is continuing its investigation and should have a preliminary report in the next 30 days.