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The Epoch Times
The Epoch Times
25 Mar 2023

NextImg:Miscommunication Caused Washington State Train to Derail

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, a seven-car BNSF Railway train derailed in Puget Sound, Washington state, last week, spilling 3,100 gallons of diesel fuel.

Two cars were flipped on the ground when the train tried to pass a swinging bridge over the Swinomish Channel on Thursday (March 16) after leaving an oil refinery in Anacortes. Devices called “derailers” sit on both sides of the bridge, embedded in the railroad tracks, to force trains off the tracks when the bridge is open.

The bridge was ready for the train to cross that morning, but at least one derailer was still operating. The train’s wheels hit the steel-wedge device, and two engine cars left the rails.

Federal Railroad Administration spokesperson Warren Flatau told KUOW there was a miscommunication between the train crew and the bridge tender. He said it appeared neither the BNSF bridge tender nor the two-person BNSF train crew followed procedures.

BNSF Railway spokesperson Lena Kent declined to comment.

“It does appear that there was a miscommunication between the crew and the bridge tender regarding the lining of the bridge and lowering of the derails,” Herb Krohn with the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers said in an email. The union represents BNSF engineers and conductors.

The train’s engineer had “many years of experience,” Krohn said.

According to Federal Railroad Administration data, human error and poor track conditions are the leading causes of rail accidents in the United States.

Given the spill’s location on a tribal reservation, the Federal Railroad Administration sent an official to the site to monitor cleanup but is not conducting a full investigation. With no injuries, fire, or explosion, the derailment didn’t meet the agency’s threshold to conduct a full investigation, Flatau said.

Federal officials said Saturday that crews had removed more than 2,100 cubic yards of diesel-contaminated soil and pumped out 4,300 gallons of contaminated groundwater. BNSF will pay for the response costs, officials said.

At least 44 million tons of hazardous material move by rail through Washington state every year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.