911 Calls Following Casselton Train Derailment Released - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

911 Calls Following Casselton Train Derailment Released

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It's been more than a week since a BNSF train derailed near Casselton, North Dakota, causing a secondary crash and subsequent explosions and fires. Valley News Live has obtained several 911 emergency calls made directly after the incident.  The clip attached includes audio from several calls made to the Red River Regional Dispatch Center on the afternoon of December 30, 2013.



As you might expect, many callers were distraught. Homeowners near by and the train crew themselves trying to figure out what exactly was going on.

Around 2:10 in the afternoon a train near Casselton carrying grain is struck by another train carrying crude oil. At 2:12 p.m. the first 911 phone call rolls in.

"Yeah, there's fire, and there's engineers trying to get out of the train right now."

Minutes later, a train crew member is scrambling to figure out what's going on.

Crew Member: "A loaded ethanol, and an empty ethanol train."

Dispatcher: "Do you know how many cars?"

Crew Member: "No I can't tell how many cars, for sure there is one ruptured, but I am worried about these other ones blowing up." 

Then, a BNSF worker who heard it all.

Dispatcher: "Do you know how many people were still in the train?"

BNSF Worker: "There's probably three guys still in the train, I heard them on the radio, they were trying to get out, I don't know if they are in it or not, I am trying to drive that way."

Just seconds after that last phone call, a nearby ethanol plant worker makes a new observation.

"The train is derailed, looks like it is going to go from car to car, just keeps lighting on fire."

Just before 2:20 p.m. people living in the area who are unsure of what's going on are seeing flames and black heavy smoke.

911 Caller: "There's like huge black smoke, I don't know if someone's house is on fire."

Dispatcher: "We're aware of that, it's a train derailment, with a fire, so stay out of the area okay?"

911 Caller: "Yes, I just saw it out of my window, and I didn't know if nobody had called."

The calls keep coming from people miles away seeing the explosions, and amazingly no one is injured.

As you heard in the 911 call, the train crew member says he thought they were carrying ethanol. Why the confusion? That answer is still unclear and we hope to know more soon.

The rail lines are open again but the National Transportation Safety Board says the investigation is far from over. The NTSB's initial report reveals the derailment happened at a switching point between two tracks.

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