Federal and state investigators will spend this week on the scene of a deadly train accident in Hoxie that killed two crew members and injured two others. Yesterday morning’s crash happened around three a.m. and involved two trains that were on the same track at the same time. National Transportation Safety Board Investigator Michael Hiller says a northbound train with two locomotives and 86 cars collided with a southbound train that had two locomotives and 92 cars. Officials with Union Pacific stated both trains had toxic chemical cargo on board, which led to the evacuation of at least 500 people out of Hoxie. After it was determined those chemicals were not released, most of those residents were allowed to return to their homes. A fire was reported, but it involved one of the train engines. The toxic cargo was not threatened. Union Pacific says the fire took about seven hours to extinguish. At a press conference that took place last night on KAIT, Hiller provided an update on the investigation.
“The NTSB has put together a multi-discipline team to investigate every aspect of this accident. We will be looking at signal information, braking, track information, train operations, and how the crew operated the trains. Our human factors group will look at the operational performance of the train crews,” said Hiller. “The train recorders on board the locomotives will provide us with performance information about speed, braking, and throttle parameters. Our team has collected the recorders while on scene this afternoon, and will be shipped to our labs in Washington D.C. for analysis.”
Hiller gives an update on what will happen this week.
“As to our schedule going forward, our investigation has just begun. We are working closely with the Federal Railroad Administration, Union Pacific and the railroad unions to gather principal evidence and key measurements to expedite our on-scene activities. We expect to be on scene about a week. Our objective is not just to find what happened, but why it happened and to ensure that it does not happen again. While on scene, we will not be determining the probable cause of this accident. We are here to gather factual evidence. We will also not speculate on what may have caused this accident.”
The accident caused numerous roads to be closed around the area for some time yesterday. 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 the Hoxie Area.