(Ogden, Utah – January 8, 2014)
Motorists travelling on Interstate Highway 84 near Ogden, UT were terrified Wednesday morning at about 9:30 A.M. when two Union Pacific freight trains collided near the mouth of Weber Canyon, sending derailed grain hopper cars careening down an embankment toward the highway, which parallels UPRR tracks but is below a 100-foot slope above the railroad tracks.
Authorities were unable to explain why one westbound train loaded with grain cars plowed into the rear of a second grain-carrying freight train in broad daylight, but three locomotives and at least five grain-carrying hopper cars derailed, at least two of which tumbled down the embankment toward I-84.
Union Pacific Public Relations Manager Aaron Hunt said the aftermath of the accident, which he called a “rare case” for UP, could take up to 36 hours to re-rail the cars, soak up the spilled diesel fuel and remove the tons of spilled corn from the tracks and the embankment.
Instead of coming up with any possible cause for the rear-end collision, Hunt attempted to “bridge” inquiring news media to a more railroad-positive subject, pointing out that “Utah is a really important part of our business. We’ve invested $290 million in the state between 2007 and 2012. Those kind of investments are just to enhance our infrastructure, to replace rail and ties, and to modernize our rail facilities,” he plaudited. “This is a major hub for us. We have a lot of train traffic through the state. An incident like this is highly irregular,” he concluded.
Utah Highway Patrol Spokesman Lt. Chris Simmons cautioned that “it (the derailment) will have a significant impact on the evening commute,” primarily because accident activities forced the closure of the outside lane of westbound I-84. “We have an environmental company on the scene and it is currently containing the diesel fuel. We also have the Weber-Morgan Health Dept. on scene to assess any type of environmental impact it will have,” Lt. Simmons continued.
Authorities also confirmed that at least three UPRR employees aboard the trains were complaining of minor injuries, but none were known to have been sent to any hospital, rather being treated on the scene.