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Casselton derailment hits home

January 17, 2014
Bryce Berginski - Tribune Reporter , Pierce County Tribune

When Terri Lemar, of Rugby, first heard the news of a train derailment, and the subsequent explosion on Dec. 30, 2013, one thing struck her: fear.

Lemar has two brothers and a sister who live in Casselton, and her son, Kurtis, lives three blocks away from the railroad tracks on which the derailment took place.

"The explosion shook my daughter-in-law's house," Lemar said.

Pictures of a large, mushroom cloud-like fireball hit the Internet soon after, which only intensified her fear. Residents of Casselton, and anyone living five miles east and south of the town, were told to evacuate their homes, and go to shelters in Fargo, 25 miles away. They were allowed to return the next day.

When talking to her daughter-in-law that day, Lemar found out that there was no smell associated with the explosion.

The derailment is still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, however a preliminary report has been released.

The NTSB report estimated that more than 400,000 gallons of oil spilled onto the tracks. It is unclear how much oil burned in the explosion. Damage estimates so far have exceeded $6 million.

The accident occurred when the oil train, which was traveling east at 43 miles per hour, collided with a grain train, which was traveling west at 28 mph, that had 13 cars derailed. Twenty-one cars and two locomotives from the oil train derailed, 20 of those cars contained oil while one contained sand. Of the 20 cars, 18 had been punctured.

The oil train crew had been applying the emergency brake at the time of the collision, which only slowed the train down to 42 mph.

A broken axle and two wheels have been shipped to the NTSB's lab in Washington, D.C., however it is unclear which train they came from. Locomotive video recorders have been shipped there, too.

No one from the railroad crews, nor any residents of Casselton were injured.

 
 

 

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