The cause of the accident is unclear, but National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said investigators are looking into it.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on October 5, 2021. It has since been updated.
Donald Varnadoe, 74, and his wife, Marjorie Varnadoe, 72, who had lived on St. Simons Island for 45 years, were excited about taking the "trip" of their "lifetime." They were prepping for a special cross-country vacation to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, according to the Associated Press.
Don spent months watching videos about train trips on his office computer so he'd have a better idea about what to expect during his trip. In fact, the real estate dealer made sure everyone in his office knew about his upcoming travel plans; he was just that excited about it! “He said, ‘This is our trip of a lifetime and we’re so looking forward to it,’” recalled Robert Kozlowski, managing broker at Coldwell Banker Access Realty in the port city of Brunswick.
At one point, a coworker even joked that Don would have to leave his beloved wife, Margie, behind, given how he'd had trouble printing her ticket. Margie was loved by everyone at Don's office because she often brought flowers, brownies, and other gifts. She had retired from the Glynn County public school system, where she had long worked as a staff.
"The NTSB will identify the cause or causes of this accident, and Amtrak commits to taking appropriate actions to prevent a similar accident in the future,” Flynn said in the statement.— WFAA (@wfaa) September 27, 2021
“If you want an example of how to treat people, Don and Margie were them,” Kozlowski, his boss of 18 years, said. “With their faith and the way they treated people, they’re in a good place, I think.” Just before leaving for their anniversary trip, Margie had dropped off a pan of brownies at the office.
Don called his coworkers from the first leg of their trip on September 24, 2021, to tell them that they were having a great time. “He had called the office and said how excited they were,” Kozlowski said. It was indeed their dream trip.
A day later, the Amtrak Empire Builder that was en route from Chicago to Seattle met with an accident near Joplin, a town of about 200 near the Canadian border. Don and Margie were among three people who died, including a 28-year-old Illinois man named Zachariah Schneider, according to the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office in Montana, per NBC News.
Donald and Marjorie Vernadoe & Zach Schneider were the three train passengers killed in the Amtrak derailment in Joplin, Montana.— Alex Caprariello (@alcaprari23) September 28, 2021
I’m told the Vernadoes were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Schneider had just bought a house with his wife, who survived the wreck. pic.twitter.com/CC2EEQLnUE
The train —carrying 141 passengers and 16 crew members, had two locomotives and 10 cars—was reportedly going just under the speed limit of 79 mph, per Washington Post, when eight of the cars derailed along a gradual curve, possibly ejecting passengers.
National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said that investigators are presently unsure as to what caused the accident, but they are looking into it. They will also look at the black box in the train, for any clues that might help them determine the cause of the accident.
“The community is in shock right now,” Kozlowski said. “They can’t believe that in a train of 160 people or so that their two friends were the ones killed,” per News Nation Now. No funeral arrangements have been made for the Varnadoes yet.
Cover Image Source: YouTube | CBS Evening News (Federal investigators probing cause of deadly Amtrak derailment)