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Union Pacific Derailment Buries Small Kansas Town in Coal, Wreckage

(Grantville, Kansas – November 12, 2012)

Having their town experience a Union Pacific train derailment for the second time in five years, residents of Grantville, KS are once again digging their way out of a mass of spilled coal and destroyed rail cars after 29 cars derailed in their downtown Monday night at about 9:45 P.M. Residents are thankful it was only coal this time, knowing that 30% of the 52 daily trains that pass through the Jefferson County town northeast of Topeka, KS at speeds of up to 70 mph carry hazardous materials.

“It can be very serious,” noted Kaw Valley Township Fire Chief Doug Brumbaugh, noting that “We could have had a big incident here. We’re very lucky it was just coal.”

The derailment almost turned tragic when a three-to-four-foot piece of rail penetrated a nearby house, narrowly missing a four-year-old boy and his dog that were sleeping on a set of bunk beds inside the bedroom that the rail smashed into, according to Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig.

One of the first responders on the scene, Chief Brumbaugh said “My worst nightmare is to have to deal with a child that’s been hurt or injured, so I’m very glad it wasn’t (the case).”

“I thank God no one was hurt,” continued the chief. “It could’ve been really bad.”

The homeowner/parents asked to remain anonymous, but did show news media where the steel missile landed on the bottom bunk – the one in which the child usually slept. For some reason, the mother placed him on the top bunk Monday night. The act probably saved the child’s life.

In 2007, a similar derailment caused by a broken rail occurred just 50 feet from the point of Monday’s accident, and locals are beginning to worry about the double-tracked main line that bisects their community.

“You think a track that’s been worked on is in good shape,” said local pastor Buzz Lambrecht. “You have to ask ‘what made this happen?’ It’s a question.”

Coal and damaged hopper cars still littered the area along Grantville’s Front Street Tuesday.