Couple Celebrating 50th Anniversary Killed in Derailment

Cause of Amtrak derailment Saturday in Montana still not clear
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2021 2:00 AM CDT
Couple Celebrating 50th Anniversary Killed in Derailment
This photo shows Margie and Don Varnadoe attending a Dec. 2020 Christmas party in Brunswick, Ga, for the real estate officer where Don Varnadoe worked.   (Photo courtesy of Robert Kozlowski via AP)

Two of the victims of Saturday's Amtrak train derailment were a Georgia couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Don and Marjorie Varnadoe, 74 and 72, spent months dreaming of the cross-country trip, and just Friday, Don "had called the office and said how excited they were" and that the trip was going well, a colleague tells the AP. Before they left, the co-worker says, Don "told me they're finally going on their trip of (a) lifetime and they were really looking forward to it." Don had worked as a realtor in the couple's hometown of St. Simons Island for more than four decades, and Marjorie had retired after a long career as an educator, First Coast News reports.

The third victim was 28-year-old Zachariah Schneider of Illinois, a software developer headed to Oregon with his wife, who survived, the Belleville News-Democrat reports. "Zach Schneider was a funny, kind, compassionate, intelligent, and beautiful man,” she says in a statement. “He was an incredible husband, software developer, debate coach, and friend. He loved board games, bonfires, the Packers and good BBQ (especially from 17th Street). He was fiercely loved by his wife, family, friends, and pets, and will be dearly missed." The train was traveling just under the speed limit, around 75mph, when eight of its 10 cars derailed going around a gradual curve in Montana. Several other passengers were hospitalized. The cause remains under investigation. (More Amtrak stories.)

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