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Cause of train wreck under Williford bridge still being investigated

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

(Photo)
Photos by Tammy Curtis Crews with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad work to clean up a Jan. 23 train derailment near Highway 58 at Williford. 12 cars and an engine derailed during the early morning hours. No one was injured in the accident.
A Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) train derailed near the Highway 58 crossing of the Spring River under the Williford Bridge around 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 23. Initially, it was reported that 29 cars, including the engine, were derailed. After the damage was surveyed, it was determined that only 13 of the 67 cars had left the tracks, according to the company's media relations director Joe Foust in Houston, Texas. It is believed some of the derailed cars were double decker units.

No one was injured in the accident and the cause has yet to be determined.

BNSF crews came from Memphis, Little Rock and Kansas City to begin the clean up process. Heavy equipment and cranes arrived through the late morning hours and began the task of untangling the debris and moving the cars off the damaged track in an attempt to reopen the busy rail line as quickly as possible. In addition to the cleanup crews, special security units from BNSF were also on the scene. One law enforcement source verified there were hazardous materials on at least one of the cars.

As a safety measure, crews utilized materials near the Spring River to capture any hazardous material runoff, including large dry "up blankets" in a slough near the river. Foust later confirmed two of the derailed cars contained hazardous materials, both of which were later found to be secure with no leakage.

As part of its normal proceedures, the BNSF train engineer was tested for drugs and alcohol after the accident. The engineer's identity was not released.

Following the detrailmebnt, Everett McGuire, a local resident, said he had witnessed BNSF crews working on the stretch of track where the accident occurred earlier in the week. When a BNSF employee was later questioned about McGuire's comment, he explained that there is always ongoing work on the tracks in the area as a matter of upkeep.

Foust confirmed the 68 car train was traveling from Memphis, Tenn. to Thayer, Mo. when it left the track, just after passing under the Highway 58 Bridge near an old rock quarry. He said, without further assessment, he could not place a dollar amount on the damage or a loss amount to BNSF for the time the track was closed. Cleanup was expected to reopen the rail line as early as midnight Jan. 24, but workers on the ground said they felt it may be longer as a large portion of the track was destroyed in the derailment.

BNFS investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the derailment.



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