Train derails in Mammoth Spring

Thursday, May 8, 2008
Photo by Adam Davis

MAMMOTH SPRING -- Officials with the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad were still scratching their heads Tuesday morning after 14 cars of a train heading south derailed just south of Mammoth Spring under the Highway 63 overpass.

According to train officials at the Thayer Depot, the train consisted of 118 cars. Twelve of the cars which overturned were carrying plastic used in manufacturing. There was some concern about one tanker car that at first officials thought might be carrying liquid butane, a hazardous material.

Uncertainty about what was in the tanker prompted Mammoth Spring School to be dismissed shortly after the accident.

"The Fulton County Sheriff's office called me and advised us to let school out because of the closeness of the wreck to the school. At that time we were not sure if there was a hazardous material on the train or not," Mammoth Spring School Superintendent Ron Taylor said. He said he was told if there was hazardous material on the wrecked portion of the train everyone in the area would have to be evacuated within a five mile radius.

"This was a good practice for us. We proved we could get our busses loaded quickly and safely," Taylor said.

Photo by Adam Davis

Mammoth Spring State Park also closed down the park as well as the Tourist Information Center due to the potential hazardous material.

"We had two school groups at the park when the train wrecked. We closed the park for about one hour and 15 minutes until it was determined the tanker was empty," Park Superintendent Dave Jackson said.

The train wrecked around 11:30 a.m. There were two train employees on the train, the conductor and an engineer. Officials at the depot would not release their names. No one was injured in the accident.

"The head of the train stopped at Cold Springs. If a train comes in to (loses a car) it automatically stops," an official at the depot at Thayer said.

He said the train was 6,000 feet long. "There will be no trains moving in our area until we get the accident scene cleaned up," the depot official said. He added that he did not know how long that would take.

As of Tuesday morning the cars from the train wreck had been removed and railroad workers were repairing the track where the train derailed.

Depot officials said the cause of the train derailment has not been determined.

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