GALENA, Ill. (AP) — The rail cars that split open and burst into flames during a western Illinois oil train derailment this week were retrofitted with protective shields to meet a higher safety standard than federal law requires, railroad officials said.
The fire continued to burn Friday, a day after 21 of the train’s 105 cars derailed in a rural area south of the city of Galena. No injuries were reported, but the accident was the latest in a series of failures for the safer tank-car model that has led some people calling for even tougher requirements.
BNSF Railway said in a news release that the train’s tank cars were a newer model known as the 1232, which was designed during safety upgrades voluntarily adopted by the industry four years ago in hopes of keeping cars from rupturing during derailments. But 1232 standard cars involved in three other accidents have split open in the past year.
Those other accidents included one last month in West Virginia in which a train carrying 3 million gallons of North Dakota crude derailed, shooting fireballs into the sky, leaking oil into a waterway and burning down a house. The home’s owner was treated for smoke inhalation, but no one else was injured.
Thursday’s accident in Illinois led local officials to announce a voluntary evacuation of an area within 1 mile because of the presence of a propane tank near the derailment. Only a family of two agreed to leave their home, Galena City Administrator Mark Moran said Thursday.
A railway spokesman initially said six cars derailed. But in an update Friday, BNSF said it found 21 cars had derailed in an area where the Galena River meets the Mississippi. The company said a resulting fire is believed to have spread to five rail cars, and emergency personnel were trying to contain the blaze.
The train had 103 cars loaded with crude oil from the Northern Plains’ Bakken region, along with two buffer cars loaded with sand, according to company spokesman Andy Williams. The cause of the derailment hasn’t been determined.