[cifnmedia] Derailment snarls traffic

  • From: Sean & Kimberly Aaron <cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: CIFN LIST <cifnmedia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 10 Jul 2004 02:40:57 -0700 (PDT)

Derailment snarls traffic, draws gawkers
By Heather Ratcliffe
Of the Post-Dispatch

Workmen clear tons of spilled coal Friday from the lanes of I-57 near Benton, 
BENTON, Ill. - Eight train cars and 800 tons of coal fell from a railroad 
bridge onto Interstate 57 in Southern Illinois on Friday morning, narrowly 
missing three vehicles passing under the railroad tracks. 

A St. Louis-area man was driving south under the bridge when falling debris 
shattered the windshield on his 2002 Park Avenue. 

A passing motorist drove him to Heartland Regional Medical Center in Marion, 
where he was treated for minor cuts. No one else was injured, said the Illinois 
State Police. Police refused to release his name or age. 

Twisted metal and coal blocked all lanes of traffic on the major artery between 
Chicago and Memphis for at least 14 hours. 

Police shut 12 miles of Interstate 57 between West Frankfort and Sesser, 
sending traffic on state highways through rural towns. The detour delayed 
travel through the area up to an hour. The crash site lies between West City 
and Benton, about 100 miles southeast of St. Louis. 

Authorities said the Canadian National Railway train was heading from East St. 
Louis to Paducah, Ky., when it derailed about 9:30 a.m. The train consisted of 
136 cars and three locomotives. 

Karla Genisio, 44, of Benton, was outside feeding her dog when the train cars 
collided near her home. 

"I heard a lot of popping noises and then a loud boom," Genisio said. 

Genisio figured the noise came from trains changing tracks. Then she noticed 
traffic backing up on West Webster Road, a residential street in front of her 
home that passes over the interstate in Benton, a town of 7,200 people. 

"We've never had this much traffic," Genisio said. 

Hundreds of gawkers gathered on that overpass with binoculars and cameras, 
while construction crews removed the debris. 

Authorities said they would likely try to push the coal out of the way to get 
the interstate open. 

Tom Zerrusen, a district engineer with the Illinois Department of 
Transportation, said the bridge carrying the Illinois Central Railroad over the 
interstate seemed stable. 

A concrete walkway on either side of the tracks crumbled when the cars fell 
over the side, but it had no effect on the bridge's support system. 

By 10 p.m. Friday, "a lot" of coal remained on the highway, said Trooper Mark 
Chaplain. He said workers were also busy removing the steel reinforcement on 
the bridge to ensure nothing further would fall on the highway. 

State police expected the interstate open by midnight Friday or a little later. 

The cleanup effort was delayed when workers had difficulty getting heavy 
equipment to the scene. 

"They are caught in the same traffic as everyone else," Zerrusen said. People 
flooded the Franklin County sheriff's department with 911 calls about the 

Trooper Chaplain said local police handled several minor traffic crashes on the 
two-lane detour roads. 

"People don't necessarily know where they are going," he said. 

Federal and state authorities were investigating the cause of the train crash 

The coal train belongs to the same company that owned a train that derailed 
near Tamaroa, Ill., in February last year. More than 1,000 people were 
evacuated in a 3-mile radius of that crash after hazardous chemicals spilled 
from 16 tank cars. Federal investigators blamed a defective joint in the 
railroad tracks. 

Ben Hallman of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report. 

Reporter Heather Ratcliffe: 
E-mail: hratcliffe@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 
Phone: 314-863-2821 

Sean A. Aaron (CIFN*1)
Central Illinois Fire Network

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