NTSB: Derailment investigation could take a year

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 | 11:29 a.m. CDT

ROCKVIEW — The investigation into the cause of a southeast Missouri cargo train crash that injured seven people and destroyed a highway overpass could take up to a year.

The accident happened about 2:30 a.m. Saturday near Rockview, when a Union Pacific train hit the side of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train at a rail intersection. The accident derailed several rail cars.

Seven people in two cars on the Highway M overpass in Scott County were injured, none seriously, when two 40-foot sections of the overpass crumpled. All seven were treated and released at a hospital.

National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt told the Southeast Missourian newspaper that the investigation could take up to a year.

"How did that happen? Why did that happen? That's what our investigation is trying to find out," Sumwalt said.

NTSB spokesman Terry Williams said investigators are expected to be on-site for a few more days.

Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis referred questions to the NTSB.

Sumwalt said the conductor and engineer on the BNSF train initially were unaware it had been hit. The conductor told investigators he thought an air hose might be loose and discovered the collision when he exited the train to see why it was braking.

Sumwalt said investigators downloaded signal records, photographed and measured the bridge, and recovered camera data from locomotives. A camera on the BNSF train's third locomotive, which was facing backward, shows the bridge collapse and shows cars on the bridge, Sumwalt said.

The 367-foot-long bridge was built in 1988 and was inspected by the Missouri Department of Transportation in February. Replacing it is expected to cost about $3 million.

"It had a rail car basically wrapped around it in somewhat of a 'U' shape, and it collapsed as a result of that collision," he said.

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