ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Two freight trains collided at a rail intersection in rural southeastern Missouri today, triggering the collapse of a highway overpass when at least a dozen rail cars derailed and struck a support pillar, authorities said.
None of the seven people hurt in the fiery crash — two train workers and five people who had been in the two cars on the overpass — suffered life-threatening injuries, Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter said in a statement.
“One train T-boned the other one and caused it to derail, and the derailed train hit a pillar which caused the overpass to collapse,” Sheriff’s dispatcher Clay Slipis said of the pre-dawn crash near Chaffee, about 15 miles southwest of Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
The collision of the BNSF Railway Co and Union Pacific trains also sparked a fire when diesel fuel leaked from one of the train engines, Slipis said.
The crash came just over a week after a commuter train derailed in Connecticut, striking another train and injuring more than 70 people during the evening rush hour.
Then on Thursday, a truck crash triggered the collapse of a bridge in Washington state, sending two cars plunging into the frigid Skagit River and raising concerns about the nation’s aging infrastructure. Three people were rescued.
In Missouri, Wayne Woods told a regional CBS affiliate that he had rushed to the scene as soon as he heard the crash to try to halt traffic as he called in the emergency.
“We heard the crash and we stepped outside and my son said the overpass was down. Then we heard a car’s tires squealing like it was coming to a stop and then a crash and a horn continuously blowing,” he told KFVS television.
“I got over there, the train was on its side. They got the guys out and lifted them down off the train and got them off the overpass. One was kind of bloody and the other one looked like he was pretty shook up,” he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it had dispatched a team to investigate the train crash.
Union Pacific said its train had been primarily carrying auto parts from Illinois to Texas when it struck the side of another train, and that a Union Pacific engineer and conductor were lightly injured, according to spokeswoman Calli Hite.
The Union Pacific locomotive and about a dozen cars derailed in the crash, she added.
BNSF said that its train had been hauling scrap metal from salvage facilities and was heading south along the Missouri River when it was struck, and that none of the crew were injured. Authorities had earlier said conductors for both trains had been hurt.