Montana anglers are catching something unusual in Clark Fork River this week: Hundreds of cases of beer recently filled the waters and shoreline of the popular trout fishery after a 25-car train derailment.
The railcars plummeted off the tracks around 9 a.m. on Sunday April 2, spilling hundreds of cases of unopened Coors Light and Blue Moon beer into the Clark Fork River.
@isleyreust A train derailed today in Montana into the Clark Fork River 😢 The boxes you see are cases of Coors Light and Blue Moon Beer. #montana #trainwreck #trainderailed #coorslight #bluemoon ? memories - leadwave
Luckily, the consequences of this derailment have been minimal, aside from making the day of thirsty locals with boats: At least one railcar was carrying butane, a form of liquefied petroleum gas, but no hazardous materials were released, Montana Rail Link confirmed to the Missoulian. Also, a small amount of diesel fuel was released into the soil from two railcars impacted in the derailment, according to Montana Rail Link Director of Communications Andy Garland.
Otherwise, some powdered clay was spilled in the crash and nearby cabins at Quinn's Hot Springs Resort in Paradise were evacuated but there were no injuries reported and no railcars caught fire, Field and Stream reported.
While it's lucky that the biggest immediate consequence was just hundreds of wasted cold ones, this derailment comes on the heels of a string of more serious incidents around the country: There have been at least a dozen reported train wrecks this year, including the two confirmed hazardous material spills in Ohio and Minnesota that required evacuations.
While experts say the effects of those derailments could linger for years, in Ohio the local ecosystem has already been affected. The chemical spill and subsequent controlled burn led to the deaths of at least 43,000 aquatic animals along the Ohio River, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, in 2022 there were 518 derailments nationwide, which resulted in five injuries, zero deaths, and more than $100 million in reported damage.
As for Montana, a daunting clean-up effort has already begun. Montana Rail Link has deployed a floating boom within the Clark Fork River to secure cans and bottles of beer before traveling downstream and to help monitor for potential diesel impacts. Montana's Department of Environmental Quality will be monitoring clean-up progress, DEQ spokesperson Moira Davin told Field and Stream. There is also the issue of the derailed cars, some of which are stranded inside a 100-year-old tunnel and minimally accessible.