(Amarillo, Texas – September 16, 2011)
Three Burlington Northern Santa Fe employees were injured and 200 residents, as well as 100 school students, evacuated Friday about 11:27 A.M. in the Texas Panhandle city of Amarillo when one of the employees was operating a remote-control locomotive and derailed a tank car loaded with a highly toxic and flammable chemical.
Fire erupted in the car carrying pentane, which can cause severe irritation to the eyes, skin and respiratory system, and is used in the production of polystyrene foam. The chemical then exploded, sending flames 300 feet into the air in the large BNSF Railway yard which is near downtown Amarillo and borders heavily-travelled Interstate Highways 27 and 40.
While Texas State and Federal agencies arrived on scene to conduct their investigations, Federal Railroad Administration Spokesman Warren Flateau, whose agency oversees railroad safety, said the agency was unaware BNSF was using remote control locomotives at the Amarillo rail yard. He called the information “certainly something that would be part of our examination.”