Three locomotives and twenty-three cars of a 93-car, eastbound Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway freight train derailed, spreading lumber and other cargo onto the side of the tracks six miles east of Havre Sunday afternoon.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman Gus Melonas said the cause of the derailment is under investigation.
The Havre Fire Department, called at 3:46 p. m., responded with two engines and an ambulace, taking one crew member with a shoulder injury to Northern Montana Hospital, and another person for a non-life-threatening injury. Both were released today.
The firefighters on scene also extinguished a small fire and stood by in case of problems with diesel fuel being off-loaded and hauled away.
Most of the cars at the front of the train were tipped on their sides, observers said.
Melonas said 1,500 gallons of diesel fuel spilled from one of the locomotives, but the spilling had stopped and there was no expected environmental threat. An environmental team is on the scene today, Melonas said, to remove any diesel-saturated soil.
Joe Parenteau, Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services coordinator, verified this morning that no hazardous materials were involved in the accident.
“It appears that the situation is being well-handled by BNSF, ” Parenteau said. “A quick response from the Havre Fire Department and BNSF’s haz-mat crew. Luckily the cars that did spill did not have any haz-mat materials. ”
There were cars on the train that did contain hazardous materials, but they were not among those overturned.
Track was ripped up, and workers from R. J. Corman Railroad Group, with help from Patrick Construction and Pipeline, were summoned to the scene to help clear the mess.
Through the night, the crews shoved the cars out of the way to make room to lay and surface new tracks. All but one of the 23 train cars will be scrapped on site and hauled from the scene, Melonas said.
Crews were still working this morning, leaving Patrick Construction’s office empty aside from their receptionist.
Melonas said this morning that traffic resumed at 10 a. m. and would be back to full capacity by this evening.
Lumber and other cargo were strewn over the area between the track and U. S. Highway 2.
A westbound Amtrak train had to turn around and return to Malta.
Montana Highway Patrol officers at first allowed a Havre Daily News photographer to take pictures, but BNSF officials declared the track unsafe and instructed Highway Patrol to order the photographer to leave.
Highway Patrol officers were the first on the scene because they were issuing a speeding ticket to Donita Demotiney on Highway 2 at the time.
Demontiney said she was terrified as she sat in the back seat of the trooper car and saw the train derail. The front of the train went off the track first, and then trains behind it followed in rapid order.
Havre Daily News columnist Pam Burke contributed to this story.