An Arkansas train crash left two dead and two injured. Authorities confirmed two Union Pacific freight trains collided head-on at approximately 2:30 am Sunday morning. As the trains burst into flames, nearly 500 Lawrence County families were forced to evacuate their homes.
Authorities confirmed the fire burned for approximately seven hours. Several roads including Highway 67, Highway 63, and Highway 230, were closed as a result of the collision and subsequent fire.
As reported by WREG News, it is unclear how long the roads will remain closed, as crews are in the process of isolating and removing toxic materials, which spilled amid the collision.
Authorities have not confirmed which materials the trains were hauling. However, Arkansas Department of Emergency Management spokesman Kendell Snyder said at least one tanker contained “an (unknown) alcoholic beverage,” which leaked onto the ground.
Witnesses said the skies were covered with thick black smoke following the train crash. Jimmy Allred, age 10, said “… it didn’t look like it was night… there were no stars… it was just covered in smoke.”
Allred and his family were evacuated to a community center, which was used a temporary shelter. Unfortunately, they were forced to leave their pets behind. The 10-year-old boy said “it was the scariest day of [his] life.”
County Emergency Management Director Buddy Williams said he does “not know what caused the accident.” He further stated that he had “no idea why these trains were on the same line.”
Although no local residents were harmed in the train crash, two Union Pacific crew members were injured and two others were killed. Authorities have not released the victims’ names.
National Transportation Safety Board investigator Michael Hiller said each train was outfitted with a device — which records speed and braking data. The information will be used to determine “how the crew operated the trains.” The NTSB will also review inspection and maintenance logs for both trains.
In 2012, two Union Pacific trains were involved in a head-on crash in Oklahoma. The 2012 crash injured one crew member and killed three others.
As the Arkansas train crash is still under investigation, authorities are unsure why both trains were using the same track. However, they are exploring the possibility of signaling issues.
[Image via WSJ]