A fiery train collision Sunday morning in Montgomery County, between Emerson and Red Oak, claimed the lives of two Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad employees. As of press time Tuesday, the victims’ names had not been released.
BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said an eastbound train carrying 130 loads of coal collided with the rear of a second train, which was hauling maintenance equipment. The coal train’s conductor and engineer died as a result of the accident. The conductor and engineer on the maintenance train were not injured. The crash occurred around 7 a.m.
“There was a train on top of another train, and there was a fire and a ton of smoke,” Margo Leibert, who lives near the crash site, said. “You could tell it was really bad, it was so engulfed in flames.”
BNSF and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators were at the scene Sunday and Monday to determine the accident’s cause. Cleanup at the site carried on well into Monday. Melonas said one of two lines of track shut down by the collision reopened early Monday morning, but the other line would remain closed until the NTSB completed its investigation.
Melonas said about 40 freight trains use the rails daily, as well as an Amtrak passenger train. An Amtrak spokesperson said service between Galesburg, Ill., and Omaha, has been suspended indefinitely, and passengers were being bussed between the two locations.
The coal train was en route from Wyoming to an interchange in Chicago, before heading on to an eastern utility company. The other train was traveling from Nebraska to Creston. Melonas said 10 of its 34 cars derailed, scattering the heavy-duty equipment along the tracks.
Firefighters and emergency responders from Emerson, Red Oak, Essex, Stanton and Elliot assisted at the scene of the collision.
EDITOR’S NOTE - The Red Oak Express contributed to this story.