MYRTLEWOOD, Ala. — Six people were injured when a freight train carrying segments of solid rocket boosters for NASA derailed on Genesee & Wyoming Inc.’s Meridian & Bigbee Railroad (M&B).
Five of the injured were accompanying the booster segments in a passenger car that derailed. Two of the five were airlifted to nearby hospitals with injuries that have been reported as not life-threatening.
The sixth person injured was the locomotive engineer, who is an M&B employee. He sustained cuts and bruises and was treated and released yesterday.
The derailment occurred as the eastbound train with two locomotives and 14 cars reached the east end of a 650-foot-long, 10-foot-high trestle over a slough, or boggy area. The trestle failed in the incident, with the two locomotives and four cars derailing. The cargo did not spill.
A full investigation of the incident is underway. Repairs to the under-deck structure of the trestle were completed by a bridge contractor earlier this week, and the trestle was tested prior to being placed back in service yesterday morning. Whether any connection exists between the repairs and the incident will be determined by the investigation.
The M&B received the train in Meridian, Miss., for delivery to Montgomery, Ala.
Representatives of the booster segment manufacturer; NASA; federal and state railroad authorities; the EPA; the Alabama Emergency Management Agency; and a derailment-response contractor were all at the scene by last evening, as well as GWI personnel including Chief Operating Officer Jim Benz and Vice President of Safety Gerry Gates.
“Our foremost thoughts and concerns are with the injured,” said Mortimer B. Fuller, chairman and chief executive officer of GWI. “Safety is the number- one priority of our company. A thorough investigation will be conducted to determine exactly what happened.”
Benz said that daily M&B traffic of approximately 100 freight cars in each direction would be temporarily rerouted while the damage from yesterday’s incident is repaired. He said it is too early to know how long repairs would take, pending the investigation, but anticipates one month. Cleanup and repairs were underway last night and this morning.