How would Craighead County respond to a train accident?

Aug 18, 2014

The investigation continues into the deadly train crash yesterday that killed two people and injured two.  The accident happened around three yesterday morning in Hoxie when a northbound train and a southbound train collided on the same track.  Those killed and injured were crew members on the trains.  Names have not been released, and the National Transportation Safety Board is expected to be in Hoxie for at least a week to investigate what caused the crash.  Local counties responded with resources to help those in Lawrence County deal with the event.  Craighead County Office of Emergency Management Director David Moore says Craighead County officials were sent into the area.

“We’ve had resources from Craighead County Sheriff’s Office over there assisting, Jonesboro Fire Department’s HAZMAT team, the Emergency Management Office has been on standby.  I have had several people waiting in the wings to see if they were needed to go over there.  I have been in contact with them since right after it happened, as we are keeping an eye on the situation to make sure that if they needed some support and assistance that we would be ready.”

There are a lot of trains that go through the Jonesboro area every year.  According to Moore, one of the things that his office does is to get prepared for how to handle a situation in Jonesboro that happened Sunday in Hoxie.

“Even beyond our having a contact meeting with different railroads, usually at least once a year, we will sit down with the railroads and they will update us on what they are doing in preparedness and response.  We make sure that our contact information with them is up-to-date in both directions.  We have standing mutual aid agreements with other counties.  We work on our response plans and we train in these things with other counties.  We have exercises to prove that we can work together.  We have a full year of making sure that we are  the best that we possibly can be.”

Moore tells what the main priorities are in handling a similar event.

“In anything from the emergency management standpoint, life preservation is absolutely at the top of the list.  Property damage would follow and then the environment is next.  Until we know that everyone is safe, life preservation takes the lead over everything else.  One of the first things I will do is call the state Office of Emergency Management and make sure they are aware of what is going on.  That is a big resource. Anything that we don’t have locally, they are most likely going to know where it is available.  They can coordinate those things and get those resources close to us if we need them.”

Moore says the investigation is moving into the long-term stage of the process.

“A lot of people don’t realize the initial event and the response to it is a short-term event.  My update on the Walnut Ridge-Lawrence County event today is that most of the roadblocks are gone.  Highway 67 will be closed for quite some time because of the clean-up in that area.  That is with any major event, like a train accident.  That particular roadway will be closed for a long time, so you have to make plans to work around those things.  Once everything is stabilized, then we work on long-term recovery.”

According to Moore, it is important for citizens to be keenly aware of all situations.  If emergencies happen, call 911.  The current information from the State Police says that all roadblocks in and around Hoxie have been removed, with the exception of Highway 67 south of Highway 63 and Highway 67 at the intersection with Highway 230.  Roadblocks at those locations will remain active for up to three days while crews remove wreckage from the scene.  The State Police report that Highway 91 remains open as an alternate route for motorists traveling to Walnut Ridge and  Hoxie.

The last train accident that happened in Craighead County occurred during the early-June severe thunderstorms that blew over a freight train at Otwell.  At least 30 box cars were blown over at had to be removed from Highway 49.  No one was injured and no hazardous cargo was aboard that train when the incident occurred June 5.