Zach Schneider has been identified as one of three victims who died in an Amtrak derailment in Montana. Hailing from from Fairview Heights, Ill., Zach Schneider, 29, was described by family members as a “huge Green Bay Packers fan” who “loved a good slice of Chicago-style pizza.”
A computer engineer working for Stripe, the financial services company, Zach Schneider was on the Amtrak train with his wife, Becca, who survived.
Other victims included Marjorie Varnadoe, 72, and Donald Varnadoe, 74, of Georgia. According to The Washington Post, Donald Varnadoe was a real estate agent before he retired. His wife Marjorie Varnadoe was a teacher, principal, personnel director and assistant superintendent of human resources in the Glynn County School District, according to The Brunswick News.
Schneider was identified by Illinois family after news broke of the disaster that derailed “the Empire Builder” Amtrak train traveling from Chicago to Seattle. Zach and Becca Schneider were traveling to Portland, Or. on vacation.
Caleb Morris, one of Zach Schneider’s friends, posted on Facebook writing that Zach was one of the “sweetest, smartest, and most original individuals.”
Caleb wrote that Zach Schneider pushed for a greater world where everybody could be included, and said that he was thankful for being blessed with knowing and understanding him over the course of their friendship.
Becca Schneider, 26, who survived the crash, has yet to comment on her husband’s untimely passing. They had been married since 2016.
Seven other passengers were injured and sent to the hospital from a train full of over 141 passengers and 16 crew members. Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams said that eight of the 10 cars were derailed, with some falling on their sides.
According to ABC News, federal investigators are still looking into what happened to cause the accident. They believe that a faulty switch on the tracks in the middle of Montana farmland could possibly be the cause of derailment.
Railroad safety expert David Clarke told ABC News that he believes the switch was the reason for the Amtrak derailment, as it’s a part of the track where two lines form into one. He believes it’s why the front two cars switched fine but not the eight behind them.
“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. He also alleged that speed was probably not a factor since advances in train control prevent the train from exceeding a certain speed in different areas.
“I started looking… wondering what it was, and then I saw the train had tipped over and derailed,” said Trevor Fossen, a Montana native who first called 911. Fossen reportedly called his brothers who brought ladders to help people crawl through train windows amid a “wall of dust.”
Jacob Cordeiro, a passenger on the Amtrak derailment traveling with his father to celebrate his college graduation, was in one of the front cars that did not tip over. “We got badly jostled, thrown from one side of the train to the other,” he said. “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.”
Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn expressed his condolences, adding that, “Amtrak’s quick and sustained focus is on doing every little thing we will to assist our passengers and crew, particularly the households of those that had been injured or died, at this painful and troublesome time.”
“We don’t have any phrases that may adequately categorical our sorrow for many who lost a beloved one or who had been harm on this horrible occasion,” he said. “We are in mourning for the individuals who lost their lives because of the derailment… They are in our ideas and prayers.”
According to authorities, a 14-member National Transportation Safety Board team “including railroad signal specialists” will be investigating the incident.