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Canadian National
Firdale, Manitoba 5-2-2002

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Following excerpt was taken from the UTU News online. Friday, May 3, 2002

CN train hauling chemicals derails in Manitoba

FIRDALE, Manitoba -- A freight train carrying dangerous chemicals collided with a semi-trailer in southwestern Manitoba on Thursday (May 2), sending a towering plume of thick, black smoke into the air and forcing the evacuation of dozens of area residents, the Globe and Mail reported.
CN Rail spokesman Jim Feeny said neither the truck driver nor the train's driver were killed in the 4:15 p.m. accident, but there was a large fire at an uncontrolled railway crossing along CN's main line.

"A locomotive and several cars have derailed," he said. "There were no injuries to our crew and preliminary information was that the truck driver was not injured, but we do have a fire on scene."

Feeny said 15 of the 20 cars that derailed were on fire, including cars carrying benzene and plastic pellets. At least one of the derailed cars was carrying hexane, although that car was not on fire, he said.

An area five to eight kilometers wide was being evacuated, although Manitoba RCMP spokesman Sergeant Steve Saunders indicated the region was sparsely populated.

Among the evacuees were 60 residents of the Pine Creek Hutterite colony who live two kilometers from the crash site.

Colony manager Lawrence Maendel was at the crash site shortly after the accident happened.

"My tongue was tingling, but we should be OK," said Maendel, who was frustrated at being evacuated because the colony is in the middle of spring seeding and still has 1,780 hectares left to go.

They also have 5,000 goslings that need to be attended every two to three hours.

"All we are concerned about right now is when we can get back in there," he said. "This is our livelihood."

Roy Storie and his wife Gwen also live near the accident site. They took the dog when the evacuation order came down but had to leave their cat behind.

"This is a dangerous toxin -- it could get you any time," Roy said. "One of the guys came tearing down the road. He said a ball of flame was going over his house."

Gerry Smith, who works at the Petro-Canada station in nearby Austin, said several emergency officials instructed him to spread word of the fire and stand by for possible evacuation.

"They've got everybody on standby in case we have to bug out. There's been a number of outfits been through here," Smith said.

"They say if it [smoke] comes down, it will fry the lungs right out of you. There's a bit of concern. I'm not too keen about the whole thing, but what are you going to do?"

Hexane is a liquid hydrocarbon that can be harmful if inhaled. Its vapor can cause flash fires and overexposure may cause nausea and dizziness.

Benzene is a colorless liquid that is volatile and carcinogenic. It is found in coal, tar and petroleum and is used as a solvent in the manufacturing of plastics.

Sgt. Saunders said several kilometers of the Trans-Canada Highway had been closed and traffic rerouted onto the Yellowhead Highway.

Darius Wurtz, who lives eight kilometers from the site, took his plane up to get a better look.

"I knew it was serious," he said. "You don't see smoke like that. It's a sight to behold, burning like crazy."

Firdale, about 150 kilometers west of Winnipeg, was also the scene of a derailment in December 1992 when 25 cars of a 90-car CN freight train jumped the track. Thirteen of the derailed cars were carrying pulp, seven held lumber and five were empty.

The Transportation Safety Board found a straight-plate wheel on one car had cracked through the hub after becoming overheated because of sticking brakes.

The 70-car train that derailed Thursday was a regularly scheduled east-bound freight.

May 3, 2002
 


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