(Belleville, Illinois October 26, 2016)
No injuries were reported, but hundreds of residents of the St. Claire County, IL suburb of Belleville were inconvenienced with loss of power, public road access and school closings after 11 cars of a 125-car Norfolk Southern Railway coal train powered by three locomotives derailed early Wednesday morning about 2:00 A.M., CDT. The derailment knocked out a major electrical distribution line, forcing a hospital onto emergency power, and damaging at least one business before it ground to a halt just a short distance from the city of 42,000s town center and business district.
Norfolk Southern official Susan Terpay said it could be 24 to 48 hours before the mess was cleaned up, and that Ameren Illinois utility workers were working gingerly around downed electrical transmission lines feared to still be live as they attempted to restore power to a recorded 541 businesses and residences.
Belleville Althoff Catholic High School was forced to cancel all Wednesday classes and activities and Belleville Memorial Hospital was operating on backup electrical power for several hours.
The derailment along Frank Scott Parkway West between Foley Drive and West Main Street caused the closure of five major roadways in the area. One business owner, Bonnie Isler, whose nail salon is on South 59th Street, described a scene of booms of light, a lot of shaking, and that her business was totally ripped out by the derailment. It almost sounded like an unbelievable thunder storm and lightning, but it was far worse than that, Isler told Derik Holtmann of the Belleville News-Democrat.
Witness Frankie Blackmon, who lives on South 59th Street, described the accident to the BND Writer as It felt like an earthquake. And all you saw was the power go boom. We had no idea what happened until we saw the train off the tracks.
Meanwhile, witness Floyd Hunt, who lives nearby, told KMOV-TVs Rachel Sudduth that It was a train come through here blowing (its whistle) and all of a sudden everything lit up. Transformers were blowing up and it (the train) piled up there.