Two Union Pacific Freight Trains Collide Head-On in Arkansas, Killing 2

Repost from The Wall Street Journal

NTSB Investigating Arkansas Train Crash

By Laura Stevens, Aug. 18, 2014

Investigators are examining tracks, equipment and human performance factors to determine why two Union PacificCorp.  trains collided head-on collided head-on in Arkansas early Sunday morning after it appears signals were functioning correctly, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The crash, which occurred at about 2:30 a.m. in Hoxie, killed two train crew members and injured two others, according to authorities. One tank car, containing unrefined alcohol, caught fire and burned for hours.

The two trains collided at a location where two main tracks converge into one main track, said Mike Hiller, the NTSB’s investigator in charge of the probe. The plan was for the southbound train, which was on the double track, to stop and wait for the northbound train to take the other track.

“We know that this did not happen and a collision occurred right at that point,” said Mr. Hiller. “We are still trying to gather data to find out why that southbound train did not stop.”

In addition to examining equipment such as the brakes, investigators have requested medical documents and are scheduling interviews to look at the human performance factors. They’ve also shipped the trains’ black boxes to Washington, D.C., for examination.

Liquid natural gas and sulfuric acid were among the hazardous materials on board, Mr. Hiller said. Neither train contained any crude oil tank cars, and all hazardous material was loaded properly into the correct type of tank cars, he added.

The northbound train carried 92 cars, 11 of which contained flammable liquid class hazardous materials including the car with the alcohol, Mr. Hiller said. It originated in North Little Rock, Ark. The southbound train originated in St. Louis, Mo., with 86 cars, 20 of which were carrying hazardous materials.

About 500 residents were evacuated as a precaution in an approximately 1.5 mile area Sunday.