Tanker cars leaking, power cut off after train derailment near North Dakota-Montana border

CULBERTSON, Mont. - A train carrying oil derailed in northeast Montana Thursday, hours after the tracks reopened from another train derailment that occurred on Tuesday in the same county.

Oil tank cars not damaged in a train derailment near Culbertson, Mont., are removed from the area on Friday, July 17, 2015. Twenty-two out of 106 oil tankers derailed Thursday evening and three were leaking oil, BNSF Railway said. The cars appeared to be new DOT-111A tank cars. Amy Dalrymple / Forum News Service
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CULBERTSON, Mont. – An oil train derailed in northeastern Montana on Thursday and struck a powerline pole as it derailed but has not caused any fires or injuries, officials said Friday.

“We’re real lucky it didn’t go bang,” said Chief Deputy Corey Reum with the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office.

The westbound train hit a powerline pole adjacent to the railroad track as it derailed about 6:05 p.m. Mountain Time on Thursday, Reum said. Power has been turned off to that area as a precaution, he said.

Twenty-two oil tankers derailed and three of the cars are leaking oil, BNSF Railway spokesman Matt Jones said.

The oil that was spilled is contained and BNSF environmental responders are on scene, Jones said.


Firefighters from Culbertson and Bainville remained on scene all night and were assisting BNSF on Friday, Culbertson Fire Chief Alan Aspenlieder said.

Fire crews may apply foam to oil that is leaking to prevent a fire in the case of a spark, Reum said.

Homes within a mile of the derailment were evacuated Thursday night, but residents were allowed to return home about 8 a.m. Mountain Time Friday, Reum said.

U.S. Highway 2 is closed between Culbertson and Bainville and traffic is being detoured.

Reum said he expects the highway will remain closed for much of Friday.

Investigators from the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration are en route to the scene.

Oil tankers not damaged in the derailment headed west out of Culbertson about 9:20 a.m. Mountain Time. The tankers appeared to be newer DOT-111A cars.

“They did their job on this one,” Aspenlieder said.


Volunteer firefighters from the area attended a hazardous materials training last fall to prepare for this type of scenario.

“We’ve been expecting it to happen sooner or later,” Aspenlieder said.

Once the spilled crude oil is cleaned up, rail cars can be re-railed and removed from the area, Jones said. Track inspections and repair work will follow.

The train contained 106 loaded crude oil cars and two buffer cars loaded with sand to separate the engines from the oil cars.

Statoil owns the oil on the train and leased the railcars, said Statoil spokesman Peter Symons.

Representatives from Statoil are on scene assisting BNSF, Symons said.

The oil did comply with the North Dakota oil conditioning order, intended to make Bakken crude less volatile for shipping, that took effect earlier this year through the Department of Mineral Resources, Symons said.

Nine rail cars derailed Tuesday afternoon near Blair, Mont., about 20 miles to the west of the Thursday derailment, Reum said.


Both derailments were within about 50 miles of Williston, N.D.

The tracks had reopened early Thursday afternoon after crews repaired 1 mile of damaged track from Tuesday’s accident.

Tuesday’s derailment disrupted Amtrak service between Whitefish, Mont., and Minneapolis, and more delays are expected.

Passengers on the eastbound Empire Builder route on Friday will take buses between Havre or Wolf Point and Minot, N.D., Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said.

Amtrak officials, in coordination with BNSF, anticipate the tracks will be reopened by the time the westbound train goes through the derailment area later Friday, Magliari said.

“There’s a lot of traffic congestion, we’ve been told, because the tracks have been opened and closed and opened and closed,” Magliari said.

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