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Visiting site of truck-train collision, Gov. Dayton urges statewide rail safety upgrades

CALLAWAY, Minn. - Gov. Mark Dayton visited the site of an explosive train derailment here Saturday, praising townspeople and first responders for their fast actions while using the situation to illustrate why he's pushing to upgrade rail crossing...

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, right, listens as Congressman Collin Peterson describes flying over the Callaway, Minn., accident site Friday during a press conference in Callaway Saturday morning. The Governor and other federal, state and local officials toured the site, held a press conference and attended an open house at the Callaway Event Center Saturday. Brian Basham/DL Newspapers
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, right, listens as Congressman Collin Peterson describes flying over the Callaway, Minn., accident site Friday during a press conference in Callaway Saturday morning. The Governor and other federal, state and local officials toured the site, held a press conference and attended an open house at the Callaway Event Center Saturday. Brian Basham / Forum News Service

CALLAWAY, Minn. – Gov. Mark Dayton visited the site of an explosive train derailment here Saturday, praising townspeople and first responders for their fast actions while using the situation to illustrate why he's pushing to upgrade rail crossings statewide.

'Quite a blast': With town evacuated, explosion of burning propane tank felt miles away

"I wouldn't wish this on anybody, but I'm hoping the Legislature will recognize this urgency based on our experience here," Dayton said. "You can't do enough. This shows that something can happen anywhere."

Callaway's 200 residents have returned to their homes after being evacuated following a collision between a train and a semi truck hauling 10,000 gallons of propane on Thursday, March 24. Two members of the train crew received minor injuries, but nobody was seriously hurt.

VIDEO: Explosion shakes western Minn. town after tanker truck-train collision

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Dayton visited the northwestern Minnesota town to see the site of the train derailment and meet with residents and local government officials.

The governor said the accident, which caused a massive explosion several hours later, shows why it's important for the Legislature to improve safety at the state's at-grade railroad crossings. The governor's proposal includes adding bells and lights to the hundreds of at-grade railroad crossings and building underpasses or overpasses where traffic warrants them.

He specifically said Moorhead has a major need for extra railroad safety measures such as underpasses, given its train and vehicle traffic.

"There are several hundred-800 or so-at-grade crossings [in Minnesota]," Dayton said. "It's not going to happen in one year, but it needs to happen continuously."

Upon visiting the Callaway crash site, the governor was surprised at how quickly the tracks were repaired.

"I was expecting to see everything plugged up still," Dayton said. "I'm impressed by how quickly they've cleaned everything up."

The railroad opened back up by 10 a.m. Friday, March 25, about 12 hours after the explosion.

Dayton was complimentary of local leaders, singling out the local fire departments who worked together to extinguish the fire. It took 21 fire departments-most of which are staffed by volunteers-and 1 million gallons of water to put it out.

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"How do you find 21 fire departments?" Dayton said. "They must have come from a long way."

The governor made sure to recognize all of the city and county officials and firefighters and first responders in attendance at City Hall for the meeting. He was complimentary of how the collision was handled and started several rounds of applause for individuals. He emphasized that they all deserve recognition even though they may be too "Minnesota modest" to accept it.

Becker County District 5 Commissioner Barry Nelson also took the time to acknowledge emergency workers and thank them for their work to get the crash site cleaned up.

"We are going to celebrate Easter here in Callaway and Becker County because of the wonderful outcome of this terrible event," Nelson said.

Related Topics: CRASHES
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