Crews Begin Removing Derailed Cars

Photo from the Minot Daily News shows the scene of the derailment that killed one local resident and injured two rail crew members.
MINOT, N.D. -- Crews worked steady Sunday removing rail cars from the site of a deadly derailment approximately one mile west of Minot in the Tierricita Vallejo neighborhood, the Minot Daily News reports.

The accident happened shortly after 1:40 a.m. Friday and left a thick cloud of anhydrous ammonia over much of Minot that has been dubbed the "death cloud" by many local residents.

The scene of the derailment was very orderly Sunday, with dozens of workers scattered everywhere in the vicinity of the accident.

The crews included Canadian Pacific Railway employees, National Transportation Safety Board workers, general contractors and local and state emergency and health officials. CP Rail workers escorted the media to the site Sunday, but limited reporters to a distance of a couple hundreds yards from the tracks, in addition to requiring them to stay in the vehicle they rode in.

The stinging smell of anhydrous ammonia was not apparent until a person came within a couple hundred yards of the train tracks.

Dozens of large semi trucks, payloaders, pickup trucks and other vehicles stood on both sides of the makeshift road leading up to the tracks. Many of the semi trucks had "oversized load" signs on them and were sitting idle.

Closer up to the scene of the accident, there were empty, mangled rail cars that once contained anhydrous ammonia or another type of fertilizer, piles of train axles, dirt and sets of new track that were set aside and ready to be put in place after the train wreckage is removed from the scene.

Workers on or next to the railroad tracks wore gas masks and protective gear and were busy helping remove train cars or inspecting the site.

Not all of the workers were wearing gas masks, only the ones who were very close to the tracks.

Special cranes were on the scene to lift cars off of the tracks and semis equipped with tankers were used to transfer anhydrous ammonia out of the train cars. Once the anhydrous ammonia was drained from the cars, it was then hauled away.

According to Ian La Couvee, a public affairs representative for CP Rail, the entire site could be completely cleared of wreckage and cleaned up within the next two days. When the site is cleared, La Couvee said state and local health officials will determine when people can return to their homes.

It may take longer than two days, La Couvee said, because railroad officials are working closely with the NTSB to aid them in their investigation into the accident.

"The NTSB works very closely with us because they have to preserve evidence," La Couvee said.

He added the railroad is also testing soil to determine the amount of anhydrous ammonia in it. La Couvee said he did not know how much soil would have to be removed, but that there definitely will be some soil taken away.

La Couvee said the railroad will try to get the site back into its original condition.

"We always try to restore the site to the way it was before the accident," La Couvee said.