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Train Derailment Causes $6.1 Million in Damage - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Train Derailment Causes $6.1 Million in Damage

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JANUARY 13 UPDATE

On Monday, the National Transportation Board released its preliminary report in the December 30, 2013 derailment, collision, fire and explosion that occurred near Casselton, North Dakota. A BNSF train carrying crude oil struck a derailed BNSF train on a parallel track that was carrying grain.

The information in this report is preliminary and the NTSB says it will be supplemented or corrected during the course of the investigation. The report finds that a westbound BNSF grain train derailed 13 cars at milepost 28.5 near Casselton. The grain train consisted of two head end locomotives, one rear locomotive and 112 cars.

An oncoming eastbound BNSF petroleum crude oil unit train, collided with the derailed car fouling main track 2, resulting in the derailment of the head end locomotives and the first 21 cars of the petroleum crude oil train. The petroleum crude oil train consisted of two head end locomotives, one rear locomotive and 106 cars. 

After the collision, both crew members of the petroleum train were able to get out without being injured before the fires and sequential explosions.  The crew from the grain train was also not injured. 
 
A voluntary evacuation of approximately 1,400 people from the town of Casselton was ordered by local emergency officials. No injuries to the public were reported.

Speed
The maximum authorized speed for freight trains in the area of the accident is 60 miles per hour. Event recorder data from both trains, as well as recorded data from the signal system, was examined to determine train speeds and signal aspects prior to the collision. The grain train was traveling about 28 miles per hour when it went into an emergency brake application. The petroleum crude oil train was traveling about 43 miles per hour when the train crew initiated an emergency brake application. The estimated speed at the time of the collision was 42 miles her hour.

Damage
Damage was estimated at $6.1 million. The accident occurred in daylight with weather 
conditions of overcast skies, a temperature of -1°, and winds from the north at 7 miles per hour. 
 
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators have completed the on-scene 
work in Casselton, ND. The investigation will continue at the NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C. Preliminary results of the investigation include: 
 
• A total of 21 cars from the petroleum crude oil train derailed along with the two leading 
locomotives. Twenty of the tank cars were carrying petroleum crude oil; one was a 
hopper car carrying sand. 
• Of the 20 tank cars that derailed, 18 were punctured.
• Initial estimates are that more than 400,000 gallons of crude oil was released. 
• Between January 1, 2014 and January 3, 2014, investigators completed interviews of 
train crews and first responders. Interview transcripts will be included in the public 
docket upon release.
• A broken axle and two wheels were shipped to the NTSB laboratory in Washington, D.C. 
for further evaluation and analysis.
• Locomotive event and video recorders were also sent to the NTSB laboratory in 
Washington, D.C. for further analysis. 
 
The parties to the investigation include the Federal Railroad Administration, the Pipeline 
and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, BNSF Railway, the Brotherhood of Locomotive 
Engineers and Trainmen, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and 
Transportation Workers, and Trinity Rail Car. 

THURSDAY UPDATE

The rail lines in Casselton were re-opened to train traffic on Thursday, just three days after a fiery train derailment and collision.

Traffic was re-routed while crews investigated the scene and cleared the wreckage. BNSF says some trains moving through the area may still experience some delays.

A local claims center also opened on Thursday for people who incurred expenses from the derailment.  The center is open from 8:00 a.m. To 5:00 p.m. at the Days Inn in Casselton. A drivers license will be needed for identification.

You can also call BNSF's Fargo claims office at 701-280-7216 to file a claim for expenses.

WEDNESDAY UPDATE

New information on Monday's train derailment in Casselton, North Dakota. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says it appears the derailment happened at switching point between two tracks.

Investigators say the grain train involved was going about 28 miles per hour when it jumped the tracks and the oil train was traveling at an estimated 42 miles per hour when it collided with the derailed grain cars sparking a massive fire.

The NTSB says they have not found any signal or track problems. Investigators did find a broken axle, but they are still unsure where it came from.

"a lot needs to continue to happen, interviews with the crews will occur, tomorrow we think, and we will continue to go through shipping documents," says Robert Sumwalt of the NTSB.

Meanwhile, the fire at the derailment scene is now completely put out and crews are busy rebuilding the tracks. All the cars involved have been moved from the crash site and officials say the tracks should be reopened by Thursday morning.

ORIGINAL STORY

The information is coming out in bits and pieces as to what happened in Casselton, North Dakota, and the train derailment that lead to a horrific crash on Monday. A train carrying grain derailed just west of Casselton at about 2:00 in the afternoon and blocked the tracks going east.

Shortly after that, another BNSF train carrying crude oil slammed into it causing explosions that lasted for hours. Valley News team's Eric Crest took to the sky to check out the aftermath about an hour after the wreck to bring you a view you'll only see on Valley News Live.

The sights and sounds from a derailment of a 20 train cars carrying crude oil caused quite the commotion in Casselton. Even from 5,000 feet above. The good news is no one was hurt. The bad news, it has displaced many from their homes and businesses in the town of 2,400.

"We're very grateful that no one has been injured or hurt in this incident and are very sorry for the big inconvenience it's caused the people and community of Casselton," says BNSF spokesperson Amy McBeth.

While the major concern 24 hours ago was the toxic smoke seeping into neighborhoods. On Tuesday morning, this time from three thousand feet up thanks to flying regulations being lifted, the new concern is figuring out what went wrong.

"Our purpose for being here is to find out what happened and then make recommendations to keep tragedies like this from happening again. That's why we're here," says Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board who showed up to Fargo Tuesday morning.

Federal investigators are starting the process of figuring out what happened. Picking up the bits and pieces that are salvageable. They'll be checking out the track conditions, train recorders and interviewing the conductors.

"That's what we're here to do is collect factual information. We will not be doing any analytics while we're here. And we will never do any speculation," says Sumwalt.

The investigation should take just over a week but the cause of the wreck may not be determined for more than a year. Meanwhile in Casselton, the air has been tested and has been determined is safe to breath and residents have been told as of 3 o'clock that they can return back home.

"Obviously we're very excited about the numbers they are seeing compared to yesterday and last night," says Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney who's referencing the testing that determined the air was clearing up.

"I'd tell ya I'd be happy if my neighborhood's air quality was as good as we've gotten this morning," adds Dr. Alan C. Nye an Toxicology and Environmental Health Specialist.

And even three thousand feet up in the air, as bad as the carnage looks below, a lot of folks in Casselton are counting their blessings.

"If you look, if that would have happened a half mile into town. We would be looking at a very different discussion here today. So a lot of things went right," says Sheriff Laney.

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation. They also contacted Valley News Live Tuesday to get their hands on our aerial video for a better insight.

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