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None Injured in AZ Partial Rail Bridge Collapse

Monday, August 3, 2020

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The Salt River Union Pacific Bridge, in Tempe, Arizona, partially collapsed last week after a train derailed on the structure, setting it ablaze and sending debris into the lake below.

According to officials, this was the second derailment in as many months on the rail bridge, which was built in 1912.

What Happened

At around 6 a.m. last Wednesday (July 29), about 90 firefighters were dispatched to the scene as thick black smoke and flames were pouring from train cars.

The train, which was traveling from Tucson to Phoenix, had 102 cars and around 10 caught fire, according to Tim McMahan, a spokesman for Union Pacific Railroad, which privately owns the bridge.

Two of the cars that caught fire were carrying cyclohexanone—a pale, flammable liquid that is sometimes used in paint remover—and a few other cars were reportedly carrying lumber; several cars fell to the park below.

Tempe Fire Chief Greg Ruiz reported later that day that no one was injured during the blaze, though the train conductor was treated for smoke inhalation and one firefighter was treated for dehydration.

Previous Derailment & Inspection

On June 26, a different Union Pacific train derailed 12 cars along the same bridge. That incident reportedly caused some damages to the bridge and rail ties, though the damage was described as “very minor.” A few hours after the derailment, however, the Rio Salado Parkway was closed for two days for “bridge repair.”

It’s not clear if the previous incident had any part in last week’s collapse, but Union Pacific noted that the bridge undergoes visual inspection every 30 days—the last one taking place on July 9—and that the bridge was found “in good standing.”

All of those documents, however, have been turned over for a federal investigation, which include the National Transportation Safety Board, the Arizona Corporation Commission and the FBI.

It is unclear at this time if the derailment or train itself caused the collapse, or if a bridge failure caused the derailment.



Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Bridges; Fire; Health & Safety; Health and safety; NA; North America; Rail; Railcars; Safety

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