Illinois derailment turns tragic

July 6, 2012

GLENVIEW, Ill. — Two bodies have been found under a collapsed railroad bridge here following the July 4 derailment of a 138-car Union Pacific coal train. The dead were in a a vehicle buried under the bridge wreckage. Authorities said more bodies of motorists could be found.

Glenview is a suburb of Chicago.

Union Pacific said extreme heat may have caused the rails to expand, leading to the derailment. Thirty-one of the loaded coal cars were derailed.

The Federal Railroad Administration is investigating. The train was enroute from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming to an electric utility in Milwaukee.

The Chicago Tribune quoted a UP spokesperson that the 86-foot-long bridge was not designed to carry the cumulative load of the 31 derailed coal cars that piled onto the bridge at once.

The newspaper also quoted the UP spokesperson that railroad inspectors and monitoring equipment were on the tracks prior to the accident checking for track-gauge abnormalities, which is standard procedure twice a day during extreme heat or cold. A “slow order” was in effect for the train, and UP said a locomotive event recorder indicated the train was obeying the “slow order” prior to the derailment.