Cleanup efforts under way in train derailment

Friday, May 23rd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

EUFAULA, Okla. (AP) _ Cleanup is under way after a Union Pacific train derailed and threw 36 cars off track.

Crews are working to pick up the derailed cars and will have to replace about 1,000 feet of track, said Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis.

Friday's derailment also damaged a 90-foot bridge.

Crews worked through Friday night and will work through the weekend, Davis said. No estimates have been made as to when the track may reopen.

Trains are currently being detoured to other Union Pacific routes.

Mary Gregg with the McIntosh County Emergency Management Office said a conductor injured his knee, but no other major injuries were reported.

The 98-car train was carrying soda ash, fencing material, fertilizer, newsprint, plywood, flour, salt and automobiles, Davis said.

No cars were carrying hazardous materials, Eufala Mayor Dean Smith said.

Helicopters swarmed the area Friday as emergency and railroad officials tried to figure out why the train left the tracks at about 3:45 p.m.

``The railroad engineer says he was traveling southbound and hit a washout and the train derailed,'' Smith said.

The train was headed to Fort Worth, Texas, from Kansas City, Mo., Davis said.

The train derailed on a south finger of Lake Eufaula, which had already begun to fill with holiday boaters and visitors.

The derailment's cause is still under investigation, Davis said.

Mike Mlynek of Stillwater said he was picking up relatives at a fast-food restaurant when he heard a crash and saw people rushing out to see what happened.

``It just looked like, from a distance, a trailer park in a tornado. Cars were stacked on top of each other going down the bank.''

Traffic was backed up near the exits as crews worked to clear the crossing. Smith said the crossings were cleared Friday and traffic was moving in Eufaula, a small town about 120 miles southeast of Oklahoma City.

``We're a resort town and we rely heavily on tourist traffic, especially this weekend,'' Smith said. ``This could've spoiled it, but it didn't. It just basically created some overtime for the railroad company.''