13-car train derailment prompts hazmat precautions in west Eugene, Oregon
By Theresa Novak
Sept. 26, 2016
Thirteen railcars, one of them containing a hazardous, flammable liquid, derailed on a Union Pacific train Sunday, prompting a partial evacuation, detouring traffic well into the night and stalling Amtrak train passengers.
Eugene police and Eugene Springfield Fire personnel were called about 5 p.m. to the Union Pacific tracks behind Zip-O Log Mills on North Garfield Street near its intersection with Roosevelt Boulevard in west Eugene.
They found a black tanker car on its side, with 10 empty centerbeam rail cars behind them, tilted at crazy angles to the left and to the right. One empty grain car and one full grain car also derailed.
The train had been headed around a curve behind the lumber business through the Union Pacific railyard when the cars left the track in what initially was reported as an injury derailment. The injury report quicky proved to be unfounded, Justin Jacobs, a spokesman for Union Pacific, said Sunday evening.
“The main line wasn’t affected, and there was no release (of any hazardous material),” he said.
But police kept traffic and residents well away from the vicinity far into the evening because of concerns about an unspecified flammable liquid in the tanker car. Police diverted traffic at Highway 99, Roosevelt Boulevard and Park Avenue.
“We want to make sure we don’t have a hazmat leak,” Battalion Chief Jeff Kronser of Eugene Springfield Fire said, explaining that was why no one was allowed near the derailed cars.
Jacobs said Union Pacific officials remained at the scene as of 8 p.m.. He said that the derailment was entirely within the railyard.
Eugene residents watched the derailment site from the Chambers Street overpass, some with more than casual interest.
Anita Hollingsworth of the Bethel neighborhood said police told her that she could not go home to her residence at Wood Avenue and Bethel Drive because of the overturned tanker, and she was getting anxious because her Great Dane needed diabetes medication. She said she and the dog often walked those same tracks. She indicated the jumble of empty yellow railcars and said she thought it was the tracks themselves that gave out.
“I see those tracks all the time, and they each have dates stamped on them,” she said. “Some date to the 1960s, but there are even some that are stamped 1945.”
Debbie Holte said she and her mother, Cheryl Thaut, were taking a walk while Holte’s daughter, Hannah, was at a dance class when they heard the train pass under the Chambers Street overpass around 5 p.m. — and then abruptly stop.
“We didn’t even hear anything,” Holte said. “So we were surprised” to see the derailment, which soon was followed by lights and sirens. As the afternoon light began to fade toward sunset, the flashing of emergency lights from about 10 emergency vehicles around the scene remained visible.
And it wasn’t only pedestrians and vehicles being kept from the scene.
Although the derailment wasn’t on the main rail line through Eugene, it nonetheless affected passenger train service, said Kimberly Woods, an Oakland-based spokeswoman for Amtrak. The passenger rail’s No. 11 Coast Starlight train had been stopped north of the site of the incident and remained that way as of 7:30 p.m. The train runs daily between Seattle and San Diego.
“Service will resume once authorities give us the clearance to proceed,” Woods said.
Jacobs said Union Pacific will not know what caused the dertailment until its investigation is completed.
EUGENE, Ore – A train derailed in Eugene Sunday evening, causing traffic delays, but no injuries.
A 13-car Union Pacific train went off the tracks in the rail yard near Roosevelt Boulevard and N Garfield Street around 5 p.m.
Only one of the cars was carrying a hazardous chemical, propane.
Scott Bishop from Eugene Springfield Fire says this car was not damaged and does not appear to be leaking.
Hazmat surveyed the scene and will oversee the process along with Eugene Springfield Fire as crews upright the propane car Monday morning.
Bishop said crews will work overnight to upright the other cars and survey the damage.
One car carrying corn spilled in the rail yard. Union Pacific workers will also clean up the grain.
Some damage was done to the train tracks, but the extent is unknown until all the cars are removed from the tracks.
Bishop said he consulted Union Pacific Hazmat officials from Portland and Salt Lake City.
Officials say no one was injured.
Union Pacific, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office, the Eugene Police Department, and Eugene Springfield Fire responded to the scene.