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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Train wreck cleanup continues


Train wreck cleanup continues

Union Pacific employees and contract workers continued their efforts today cleaning up the remains of a Friday morning train wreck just south of Haines along Highway 30.

Fifteen cars on the 136-car train derailed, tearing up 500 feet of track at 2:26 a.m. Friday. All train traffic along the line was held until the track was reopened at 3:30 a.m. Saturday, Mark Davis, a Union Pacific Railroad spokesman, said from his office in Omaha, Neb., today. Davis said about 15 trains travel through Baker City daily.

The 15 derailed cars included seven carrying lumber products, four loaded with the coal by-product coke and four that were empty, Davis said.

The southbound lane of Highway 30 is expected to remain closed and flaggers will be directing traffic at the cleanup site most of the week, said Russ Witham, transportation maintenance coordinator for the Oregon Department of Transportation in Baker City.

Lights were placed along the highway and flaggers directed travelers throughout the night Friday and early Saturday morning, Witham said. About 25 vehicles were parked on the shoulder of the highway as the wreckage was cleared from the tracks and new rails with ties attached were brought in to repair the line, he said. The salvage work was suspended during the weekend and both highway lanes were open.

Union Pacific is continuing to investigate the cause of the derailment, Davis said, adding that an estimate of the damage and the cost of the cleanup won’t be known for at least a couple of weeks.

He said 150 people, including Union Pacific employees from throughout the region and from Omaha and contract workers, were deployed to the site for the cleanup effort. Rick Franklin Corp. from Lebanon is conducting the salvage operation, Witham said. Those employees were working today to remove large rolls of paper from a rail car that wrecked on the highway side of the track, he said.

The Lebanon firm also will work to restore the damage to the surrounding property and reseed the affected area.

The derailment tore up ground on state and railroad right of way and damaged a fence and pasture land belonging to Lorna Board. Paul Crabill is leasing the property from Board, said Mark Bennett, Baker County Emergency Services director.

Union Pacific immediately made arrangements to repair the fence to ensure that Crabill’s cattle remained in the pasture, Bennett said. “The railroad was most responsive and just a really good neighbor,” he said.

Union Pacific has pledged to reimburse ODOT, the Haines Fire Department and the county for any extraordinary expenses resulting from the derailment and cleanup effort, Bennett said.

He added that Haines volunteer firefighters who were called to the wreck had within the last year received training on how to handle hazardous materials involved in a train derailment. One empty tanker car in Friday’s incident contained phosphoric acid residue and the volunteers were on standby until a hazardous materials team could arrive. The residue was transferred to a truck and removed from the scene.

The haz mat team members were the same people who trained the firefighters during the rail event exercise, Bennett said.

“It really was great that everyone knew exactly what to do and they did it,” he said.

No people or livestock were injured in the derailment, Bennett noted, pointing out that horses were standing just 30 yards east of the derailment on Slash D property.

“It was in a good spot,” he said. “It could have injured horses and caused all kinds of grief.”


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