(Culbertson, Montana – July 16, 2015)
Safety officials in northeastern Montana were rightfully concerned Thursday after 21 tank cars carrying North Dakota Bakken crude oil derailed at about 6:05 P.M., MDT, from a Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train of four locomotives powering 104 tankers and two buffer cars of sand to separate the locomotives from the cars carrying the highly-volatile commodity derailed in Roosevelt County, MT, causing dozens of residents and workers in an oil field camp to be evacuated from the scene for fear some of the 35,000 gallons of oil which leaked from four of the derailed cars could explode.
To make matters potentially worse, the derailing cars struck an electrical power line pole adjacent to the scene of the accident, both endangering the electrical current to ignite the leaking oil as well as to cut electricity for a large number of local customers, both homes and businesses. “We’re real lucky it didn’t go ‘bang’” observed Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Corey Reum.
The derailment caused the closure of U.S. Highway 2 between Culbertson and Bainville, MT, and further disrupted Amtrak passenger trains that operate along the BNSF rail route after it was first affected by an earlier nine-car BNSF derailment on Tuesday only about 20 miles to the west from Thursday’s crash.
“We’re getting 30 to 40 trains through Culbertson every day,” said Mayor Gordon Oelkers. “It’s a concern for the safety of the community.
Culbertson Fire Chief Alan Aspenlieder agreed with the city’s chief elected official, saying “We’ve been expecting it to happen sooner or later.”