Trains carrying hazmat collide in Minnesota

Published 17 December 2008

At least 40 cars were derailed and some went into the Mississippi River in an early morning crash in southeast Minnesota; liquid ammonia and propane are leaking from some of the cars

Another example of the risks associated with transporting toxic chemicals. Two freight trains collided head-on before dawn this morning in southeastern Minnesota, sending some of the forty derailed cars into the Mississippi River, authorities said. Liquid ammonia and propane are leaking in the wake of the crash, which occurred about 5:30 a.m. crash in Dresbach, but there are no known injuries and evacuations have not been necessary, said spokesman Dave Belz of Winona County Emergency Management.

The north-south tracks run parallel to the river and Interstate Hwy. 90, where traffic continues to flow normally, Belz said. The tracks are about 20 to 30 feet up a slight embankment from the river, he said. The trains are owned by Canadian Pacific railway, based in Calgary.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Paul Walsh writes that two train crew members were taken to a hospital but only as a precaution, said CP spokesman Mike Lovecchio. “We are not counting them as injuries.” At that spot, Lovecchio said, there is a siding (tracks that act as a passing lane). “How these two trains made contact with each other is obviously part of the investigation,” he said. “We will be doing a comprehensive investigation and cooperating fully with the investigating authorities.”

La Crescent Fire Chief Bernie Buehler, the incident commander, said one train coming from Portage, Wisconsin, was pulling 100 cars, the other was coming from La Crescent, Minnesota, and carrying 15. Out of the 115 train cars, crews could see 49 left standing, Buehler said. Belz said this is the first crash of this type “that I’m aware of” in his thirty years in law enforcement in the area. With the arrival of daybreak, Belz said, emergency personnel are turning their immediate attention to containing the leaks and retrieving the cars in the river.

Dresbach is about 150 miles southeast of the Twin Cities.