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'Oh my God, we're derailing:' Minnesota passenger relives Amtrak derailment

An Amtrak train derailed Saturday in Montana, killing at least three people.

MINNEAPOLIS — Federal investigators are trying to piece together why an Amtrak train derailed Saturday afternoon in Montana, killing at least three people. 

On Sunday, officials said five people remained in the hospital. 

The westbound Empire Builder train was on its way to Seattle from Chicago when it derailed near Joplin, Mont. 

About 141 passengers and 16 crew members were on the train that had two locomotives and 10 cars, eight of which derailed. 

RELATED: 'Your heart hurts': 3 dead after train bound for Seattle derailed in Montana

Megan Vandervest of Minneapolis was on her way to Seattle when she awoke to the train derailing. 

"I would describe the experience as kind of like extreme turbulence on an airplane but like louder," Vandervest told CNN. "It was the first thought I really had when I woke up was, 'Oh my God, we're derailing. Then immediately after I was like, 'That's crazy. We're not derailing.'" 

Vandervest told CNN that when they evacuated the train, it was shocking to see the damage. 

"If you looked about a hundred yards down, there were three cars that were completely tipped over... that was completely, completely jarring. From then on, it was kind of a lot of chaos," she said. 

Vandervest tweeted Sunday, "Thanks again to everyone who reached out with kind words, we feel very lucky to be alive." 

The derailment left some passengers stranded at Union Depot in St. Paul. Amtrak said Westbound Empire Builder 7/27 trains scheduled to depart Chicago will end in St. Paul instead of on the West Coast between now and Sept. 28. During this same time frame, Eastbound Empire Builder trains 8 and 28 that depart from Seattle and Portland will not operate between those locations and St. Paul. 

Jester Jersey planned on arriving in Portland on Monday afternoon. Jersey was on his way home to Davis, Calif. from Indianapolis when he woke up Saturday night on the train to an announcement saying passengers would need to get off in either St. Paul or Minot, N.D. 

"I was just really taken for a loop at what happened," Jersey said. 

RELATED: Investigators probe deadly Amtrak derailment in Montana

According to Jersey, some people chose to stay in hotels, travel back to Chicago, or fly out of MSP Airport. Jersey said Amtrak did not offer him accommodations. Instead, he spent the night at Union Depot and will do the same on Sunday night. His train will leave Monday night, adding an extra two days to his trip. 

"It's a very rare occurrence and so to see that and to realize it was actually a train that I rode the week before just to get to Indianapolis really shocked me," Jersey said. 

During a press conference on Sunday, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte thanked all the people in the surrounding communities who stepped up to help the victims. 

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the derailment. 

"When we get the all clear from NTSB, BNSF has assured me they can get the line up and running in short order but we need to make sure we know what happened first," Gov. Gianforte said. 

RELATED: A look at recent Amtrak accidents

RELATED: Investigators probe deadly Amtrak derailment in Montana

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