NTSB issues initial report on Casselton, ND, oil train incident

A BNSF crude oil tanker train’s Dec. 30 collision with a derailed train carrying grain near Casselton, ND, caused $6.1 million of damage and spilled more than 400,000 gal of crude, the National Transportation Safety Board said in its initial report on the incident.

It said the westbound BNSF grain train derailed 13 of its cars around 2:11 p.m. on Main Track 1, with one of them fouling Main Track 2. The oncoming eastbound crude oil unit train collided with that derailed grain car soon after, making the oil train’s head-end locomotives and first 21 cars leave the tracks, NTSB said.

Eighteen of those cars were breached, spilling the crude, it noted. The train consisted of two head-end locomotives, one rear DPU locomotive, and 106 cars.

Crews from both trains left the lead locomotives before the spilled crude caught fire, NTSB said. Both trains had been traveling below the speed limit for that stretch of track before derailing, according to data recorders on the rear locomotives and information from traffic control system signals.

About 1,400 Casselton residents were voluntarily evacuated, but returned to their homes by Jan. 2. No injuries were reported from the incident (OGJ Online, Jan. 2, 2014).

NTSB said its investigation will continue at its Washington headquarters. A broken axle and two wheels, as well as locomotive event and video recorders, were sent to its laboratory there for further analysis, it noted.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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