Coal Cars Derail In Junction City

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JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (WIBW) -- Nearly two dozen coal cars that were part of a 105-car train derailed near I-70 in Junction City late Wednesday afternoon.

Union Pacific officials say 23 cars were overturned or crushed.

"This afternoon about a quarter till 5, we got the call that the train had derailed and was blocking two different crossings within Junction City. Our units responded and found that to be true and when they got to looking, they found all of these cars down here derailed. Right now, we don’t know what caused the derailment but it appears that a string of cars are damaged and are either laying on their side or are completely mangled and destroyed due to the accident. The train split and the rest of the engine and the front part of the train rolled up to the East Ash crossing and stopped right there. So we have two parts of the train right now that we’re dealing with and we’re waiting on Union Pacific to get here to help get the investigation underway," Geary County Undersheriff Tony Wolf told 13 News at the scene Wednesday night.

"The railroad will send down an investigation team. Preliminarily right now, just in talking to the conductors and engineers on the train, they say this is something that can happen when the rails get very hot. They tend to warp and when that happens, it could cause a derailment like this. But right now that’s very preliminary. They’re going to have to make the determination as to what the actual cause was," Wolf added.

The derailment happened close to I-70 on the eastbound side near Exit 296 for South Washington Street in Junction City, scattering coal, debris and pieces of the train tracks throughout the accident site.

"At the bridge where I-70 goes over the tracks, the train never hit any of the bridge itself, never caused any damage. We got very lucky there that it didn’t take the bridge out when it wrecked.... Union Pacific will let all of the trains know that this section of the rail system will be shut off at least until clean up and until it can be repaired but it looks like it’s going to take a lot of repairs to fix this right now," Undersheriff Wolf said.

No one was injured. Crews with the Junction City Fire Department were also on the scene to check on the safety of those aboard the train. Geary County Sheriff's deputies, along with Junction City firefighters, worked to secure the site.

Mark Davis, Director of Corporate Relations and Media for Union Pacific’s Northern Region, said the train en route to Memphis, Tennessee from a mine in Colorado. He told 13 News that crews worked through the night Wednesday and all day Thursday to clean-up the scene and replace 1,200 feet of damaged track. Union Pacific expects the line to be open by 2 AM Friday, June 29th.

The cause of the derailment is still under investigation, Davis said.

Damage estimates are not yet available.