Freight trains collide in AZ

BY P.J. HELLER | Bellemont, AZ | November 1, 2000

Federal investigators were attempting Wednesday (Nov. 1, 2000) to determine how a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) freight train

rear-ended a second freight train that might have been carrying hazardous materials, sparking a major blaze and a spill of some

10,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

Three people were injured, one seriously. One crewmember was missing. Fire fighters, meanwhile, continued battling the fire as

dense black clouds of smoke filled the air. No hazardous materials were released, authorities reported.

"I know there was a little worry because near the end of the (lead) train were some haz-mat (hazardous materials) but we didn't

have any problems with those cars," said Tom Florman of the Coconino County Sheriff's Department. "There were no fires, no

leaks, and no spills from those haz-mat cars."

BNSF spokesperson Lena Kent could not rule out the possibility that the lead train was carrying hazardous materials. She said,

however, that a tanker car originally believed to be carrying toxic materials had been empty. Neither Florman nor Kent could

identify any hazardous materials on the train.

Both trains were heading westbound when the accident occurred Tuesday about 10 miles west of Flagstaff. The three engines on

the second train derailed and burst into flames. Twelve cars on the lead train derailed and three double-deck container cars on

the rear train derailed, Kent said.

Approximately 40 people living in the area were evacuated from their homes but were allowed to return Wednesday morning.

Half of them spent the night at the National Guard Armory in Flagstaff while the remainder were sheltered by the American

Red Cross at a hotel in Williams.

Authorities closed both eastbound and westbound lanes of Interstate 40 following the accident. Both lanes were reopened by

Wednesday morning, Florman reported.

The lead train was en route from Alliance, TX, to Los Angeles, Kent said. The other train was headed from Chicago to

Richmond, CA. The engineer of the Chicago-to-Richmond train was reported in guarded condition at the Maricopa Burn Unit in

Phoenix, Kent said. The second crewmember aboard that train was missing. The two crew members on the lead train were

treated and released at a local hospital.

Both westbound and eastbound rail traffic has been halted, she said. Kent said the railroad was cooperating with local authorities

as well as the National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Railroad Administration, and Department of Public Safety.

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