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Accidents Archive

Federal Investigators Look for Cause of Fiery North Dakota Train Crash
Created: 05/06/2015 9:29 AM
By: Dave Aeikens

Federal investigators are looking into what caused an oil train to derail and catch fire Wednesday in North Dakota.

The Federal Rail Authority and National Transportation Safety Board are sending investigators to Heimdal, North Dakota, where the BNSF Railways train with 109 cars, 107 carrying oil, derailed. Six cars left the tracks, the Wells County Sheriff's Office said.

Heimdal is about 200 miles northwest of Fargo, North Dakota. About 40 in Heimdal or in nearby farmhouses were evacuated. Some people returned to their homes by Wednesday afternoon, and no injuries were reported.

The BNSF Railway train traveling east crashed about 7:30 a.m. just east of the tiny town of Heimdal; Heimdal has a listed U.S. Census population of about 25 people.

BNSF says the tank cars involved in the incident are the unjacketed CPC-1232 models.

Several fire departments and emergency crews remained on the scene Wednesday afternoon, but firefighters were letting the fire burn itself out.

Federal Rail Authority interim administrator Sarah Feinberg issued a statement Tuesday morning saying the FRA will dispatch a 10-person team to investigate the cause.

"Today’s incident is yet another reminder of why we issued a significant, comprehensive rule aimed at improving the safe transport of high hazard flammable liquids," Feinberg said. "The FRA will continue to look at all options available to us to improve safety and mitigate risks.”

BNSF Railway said it has people at the scene with more headed there.

The derailment Wednesday was the fifth so far this year and comes less than a week after the Department of Transportation announced a rule to toughen construction standards for tens of thousands of tank cars that haul oil and other flammable liquids.

Since 2006, the U.S. and Canada have seen at least 24 oil train accidents involving a fire, derailment or significant amount of fuel spilled, according to federal accident records reviewed by the Associated Press.

The Minnesota Regional Railroads Association said railroads support tougher standards for tank cars, new operating protocols including routing requirements and speed restrictions and information access for local agencies.

Gov. Mark Dayton, whose state has 700 miles of rail that connects to the Bakken Oil Patch in North Dakota, said Minnesota is more prepared to handle the trains and possible problems than previously.

"We have inspections going on the state level; we have inspections at the federal level; we have BNSF, especially, inspecting twice a week," Dayton said. "They say their tracks, I think they are much safer than they were before."