UPDATE: Railroad Hopes To Reopen Hays Track Tonight Following Derailment

By: Phil White / Associated Press Email
By: Phil White / Associated Press Email
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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

UPDATE: 4:30 p.m.:

The crew of a Union Pacific freight train escaped injury early Tuesday morning after their Salina-to-Denver train hit another train stopped in a rail yard in Hays, derailed and caught fire.

Union Pacific Spokesman Mark Davis told KAKE News the accident happened about 1:25 a.m. just east of the crossing over Vine Street, which is U.S. Highway 183. Two of the three locomotives caught fire after the derailment, said Ellis County EMS Director Kerry McCue. About a dozen cars on the 79-car train also derailed.

Both Vine Street and Eighth Street were closed much of the morning as the train blocked the crossing and firefighters worked to bring the fire under control. The fire was brought under control about 8:30 a.m., McCue said. Vine was back open to traffic a short time later.

Some of the people who live just across Eighth Street from the derailment site were not sure what they were hearing at first.

"I was just watcing TV and watching a new movie and then there was a big ol' boom, right as the TV was going into an action scene," Matthew Rowlison said. "I thought it was the TV."

However, a neighbor was soon at Rowlison's door, telling him a train had derailed just across the street from their mobile home park.

"Fire was everywhere," Rowlison said. "We walked over there and heard some explosions and walked back."

Within a few minutes, law enforcement officers were on the scene, telling residents to move back.

"They said there was ethanol and stuff like that," said Duane Watkins. "It could have blown up the trailer houses and made the gas lines blow up, too."

Union Pacific says about 20 cars were carrying ethanol, but those cars remained upright. As a precaution, residents of the mobile home park were moved to a Red Cross shelter at Holy Family Catholic School. The evacuation order was lifted about 11 a.m. and the residents were allowed to return home.

"We actually ended up opening a shelter for 14 people," said Meagan Carver of the Western Kansas Chapter of the American Red Cross. "Six families were involved and seven animals. They were here for approximately six hours and we served them breakfast and lunch."

As Vine and Eighth Street reopened, derailment crews arrived and began the work of trying to get the railroad back open to traffic. Hazardous materials crews used a truck to pump away puddles of water contaminated by diesel fuel that spilled from the locomotives.

Davis, the Union Pacific spokesman, said there was little damage to the main line through Hays and crews were hoping to have it back open to train traffic by late Tuesday evening. About 120 feet on each of the two side tracks in the rail yard will have to be replaced, Davis said.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

UPDATE: 11:45 a.m.:

The evacuation order for residents near a train derailment in Hays has been lifted, as crews continue to get the situation under control.

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Railroad officials say a train derailment in Hays occurred when a freight train hit a standing train, causing a fire but no serious injuries.

Ellis County EMS Director Kerry McCue says 12 cars of an 80-car train derailed around 1:20 a.m. near 8th and Vine, just east of Highway 183 in Hays. Union Pacific Railroad spokesman Mark Davis said all three crew members of the Salina-to-Denver freight train escaped injuries.

McCue says 20 cars on the train contain ethanol and those cars are still upright and on the tracks. The other derailed cars carried freight and cargo.

The Hays Daily News reports three locomotives and 79 cars were part of the westbound train, which was carrying low-grade ethanol and general freight such as steel, wheat, beer and particle board. The 20 tankers carrying low-grade ethanol did not derail.

McCue says two of the three locomotives caught fire and burned for several hours. That fire has been brought under control.

McCue says no one was injured in the derailment, but 15 to 20 residents have been evacuated as a precaution. Residents have been asked to avoid 8th and Vine, as well as a four-block radius around that intersection.

Emergency crews are also requesting that Hays residents restrict their water usage due to the amount of water being used to fight the fire.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


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