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Boeing fuselages new attraction on Montana rafting trips

This photo by Jerry Compton provided by Wiley E. Waters Whitewater Rafting shows a freight train that derailed near Alberton in western Montana, sending three cars carrying aircraft components down a steep embankment and into the Clark Fork River. (AP Photo/Wiley E. Waters Whitewater Rafting, Jerry Compton)

Grizzlies and beautiful vistas aren’t the biggest draw for rafters on Montana’s Clark Fork River this week. Fuselages of two Boeing 737s stuck in the river after a train derailment are providing a pretty unique sight.

“It’s not something you see everyday, obviously, and they’re really big and just so out of place,” Jack Scott with Montana River Guides tells The Dori Monson Show. “It’s kind of a cool thing to see.”

A train derailment sent three 737 fuselages down the river embankment. One that broke in half has been removed, but the other two remain. Scott says there was brief talk about closing the river, but ultimately it remained open and they continue taking tours past the wreckage.

“You get pretty close to them, but there’s no immediate danger if everybody’s in a boat,” says Scott.

The summer months are typically a very busy time of year for the rafting company, but Scott says the aircraft bodies in the river could definitely be an additional draw. “I think it’s brought some people out just to check it out because it’s something to see.”

Crews are working to hoist the remaining fuselages from the river. Scott was in the river Sunday when the first fuselage was removed. He says crews just held them back during the removal and then they were allowed to proceed on their trip.

Boeing is deciding what to do with newly manufactured commercial airplane bodies. Three of six that fell from the train went down the embankment. Scott says damage was clearly visible on the three near the river.

“The one that was submerged cracked almost in half, it split kind of like a tin can. It was just this jagged crack right in the middle,” he says. “The other two look like they’re intact but it’s obvious there is some damage, they’re dented up.”

Boeing spokeswoman Dina Weiss said Monday experts from Boeing Co. and Spirit Aerosystems, which built the fuselages, are at the site.

She said in a statement, some Boeing 777 and 747 airplane parts appear undamaged after Thursday’s derailment and will be shipped to the company’s Everett assembly plant.

Montana Rail link spokeswoman Lynda Frost has said it could take until Tuesday to remove all the fuselages.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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