Oct. 2, 2006

Five homes evacuated after train derailment

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

Seven cars of a 122-car train westbound for Canada derailed near Lake Sarah Road in Independence Thursday evening just before 9 p.m., causing authorities to evacuate several homes in the area for fear that residual anhydrous ammonia was onboard.

A chemical assessment team from Hopkins was called to evaluate the derailment, and determined that while there was residue present, there were no leaks.

However, for safety reasons, five families that live on Lake Sarah Heights Drive were evacuated around 11 p.m.

“When the all-clear was given, they were allowed to come back,” commented West Hennepin Public Safety Director Ray McCoy. “They were evacuated for approximately four hours.”

The train was a westbound freight train headed from St. Paul to Calgary, Canada, said Canadian Pacific Midwest Communications Manager Laura Baenen. Cars 31 through 37 were the ones that derailed, with five of them landing on its sides.

Of the seven cars that derailed, four were empty tankers, but had anhydrous ammonia residue present, two contained sand, and one contained railroad ties, she said.

Some sand from one of the cars spilled onto the ground next to the tracks, but no one was injured as a result of the derailment, she said.

“The two-person crew – a locomotive engineer and conductor – were ok,” Baenen said.

As of Friday morning, crews had begun re-railing the cars, and Baenen said they were about three hours ahead of schedule. She was hopeful the track will be restored for operation by 1 a.m. Saturday morning.

“We’ve got a contractor in here moving the derailed cars out of the way, or re-railing them, and once that’s done, we can begin repairing the track that was damaged during the course of the derailment,” she said, noting that about 450 feet of track was damaged during the derailment.

Baenen said the cause of the derailment remains under investigation, and said that the maximum train speed of trans traveling through the area is 40 miles per hour.

“Normally, we have about two dozen trains on average that go through here a day,” she said.

Both Baenen and McCoy said they could not recall another derailment in recent history on that railway.

Assisting West Hennepin Public Safety at the scene of the derailment was the Medina and Corcoran police departments, along with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department.

Loretto and Maple Plain fire departments responded to the scene, along with hazardous materials teams from Plymouth and Hopkins, McCoy said.

“Our emergency plan was put into place, and everything went according to plan . . . it went very well,” McCoy said.

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