(Colfax, California – January 20, 2013)
The derailment of five cars of an Oakland, CA-bound Union Pacific double-stack container freight train in the Placer County, CA town of Colfax about 11:00 A.M. Sunday morning broke up a tailgate party for San Francisco 49er fans, narrowly missed hitting some children, and resulted in an evacuation of about 100 people from businesses and residences within 500 feet of the railroad’s right-of-way.
With the NFC Championship pre-game party going on in a bank parking lot adjacent to the UPRR tracks, there was no shortage of eye-witnesses to the derailment and subsequent leak of an unknown material which caused the evacuation to last until the substance was found to be non-hazardous about 3:00 P.M.
Witness Dakota Sheets said the train began derailing “about three cars before the main intersection (Grass Valley Street),” and proceeded to start “digging a ditch in the rocks.” Sheets added “I heard a ‘pop’ and the front wheel of one of the cars broke, at least that’s what it looked like.”
His and five other families were gathered in the U.S. Bank parking lot when the wreck occurred. Another witness, Shiloh Rebozzi described the chaos as the rail cars on the 139-car Chicago, IL-originating train continued to derail. “There was a big ‘bang’ initially like it bottomed out, and that got everyone’s attention,” recalled Rebozzi. “Then it hit the concrete of the crossing,” giving parents anxious moments as they strived to “make sure all the children were safe.”
Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt said the derailment scene was cleaned up and the daily average of 21 trains, which include two Amtrak trains, were once again operating through the area by late Monday, but could offer no explanation for why the derailment occurred.