WASHINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that the probable cause of the Oct. 15, 2005, collision of two Union Pacific trains in Texarkana, Ark., was the failure of a train crew to remain attentive and alert and thereby able to stop before striking an observable standing train in front of them.
Contributing to the severity of the wreck was the puncture of a tank car during the collision, which resulted in the release of propylene, a compressed flammable gas. Also, the yardmaster did not immediately provide emergency responders with a consist which would have immediately identified the contents in the tank cars, including hazardous materials.
As a result of the accident in the Union Pacific rail yard, propylene flowed into a nearby neighborhood and an unknown source ignited the gas causing a house to explode. Approximately 3,000 residents within a 1-mile radius of the punctured tank car were advised to evacuate the area.
“Proper emergency notification and response procedures are vital to saving the lives of people involved in an accident and minimizing the effect on neighboring communities,” said NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker. “It is imperative that Safety Board recommendations addressing emergency response coordination and communication are implemented.”
Following the investigation of this accident, the Safety Board made the following recommendations:
To the Union Pacific Railroad: Implement measures to ensure that all of your field personnel understand and comply with the procedures for responding to hazardous material incidents, with particular emphasis on timely notification and appropriate coordination with local emergency responders.
To the City of Texarkana: Implement measures to ensure that all of your field personnel understand and comply with your procedures for responding to hazardous material incidents, with particular emphasis on timely notifications and appropriate coordination with local responders.
To the International Association of Fire Chiefs: Using the circumstances of the Oct. 15, 2005, wreck in Texarkana, reemphasis through your publications, web site, and meetings the importance of conducting periodic joint emergency response drills and exercises with regional and local transporters of hazardous materials, such as railroads and trucking companies, to help ensure effective communications and coordination when accidents occur.
To the Association of American Railroads and the American Short Line Regional Railroad Association:
Using the circumstances of the accident in Texarkana, Arkansas, on October 15, 2005, reemphasize through your publications, web site, and meetings the importance of conducting periodic joint emergency response drills and exercises with communities adjacent to railroad yards and along hazardous material routes, to help ensure effective communications and coordination when accidents occur.
– Special to Railfanning.org News Wire