A truck driver was killed when a train derailed and the Colorado Bridge collapsed, spilling coal cars onto the highway

A truck driver was killed when a train derailed and the Colorado Bridge collapsed, spilling coal cars onto the highway

DENVER (AP) — A truck driver was killed when a train derailed near Pueblo, Colorado, and caused an accident. Railway bridge collapse The accident occurred on a major highway — crushing the truck, spilling coal and mangled rail cars across the road and shutting down traffic indefinitely, authorities said Monday.

The 60-year-old driver was initially said to be trapped in the Sunday afternoon crash on Interstate 25, but authorities said Monday that he had died.

The partially collapsed bridge could be seen Monday afternoon with the pickup truck falling under it in the right northbound lane. The derailed train cars piled up on the bridge and along the tracks to the northeast and large amounts of coal covered part of the highway.

A nine-mile (14-kilometer) stretch of I-25 — Colorado’s main north-south corridor, used by 39,000 to 44,000 vehicles daily — was closed in what the Colorado Department of Transportation said Monday would be an extended closure .

The National Transportation Safety Board said the bridge partially collapsed when the train carrying 124 cars loaded with coal derailed at about 3:30 Sunday afternoon while the semi-trailer truck passed underneath it.

The agency said that thirty cars derailed.

On Monday, investigators from the NTSB arrived at the site, north of Pueblo and about 114 miles (183 kilometers) south of Denver. The agency said in a statement that it will determine the cause after considering the adequacy of prior track inspections, the condition of the bridge, its maintenance history, and any issues with the train or rail cars. The initial report will be issued within 30 days.

It was not immediately known if any other vehicles were involved, said Gael Perez, spokesman for the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office.

Gov. Jared Polis said it could take up to 48 hours to remove coal and other debris and make the highway passable. That work won’t begin until federal investigators give the state clearance to move forward, Polis said. He added that Colorado had been waiting months to receive federal money already allocated for safety and rail projects.

“These improvements come too late to prevent this incident,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “I am saddened by the loss of a life in the train derailment and send my condolences to his family and loved ones.”

The bridge was built in 1958, Colorado Department of Transportation spokesman Bob Wilson said.

Former NTSB accident investigator Russell Quimby said the most likely scenario is that the derailed cars hit the side of the bridge, dislodging the beams supporting them and causing the bridge to fall. He added that investigators will also look into any possible sabotage or vandalism.

“It’s usually pretty obvious,” Quimby said. “If they find something that looks like some type of vandalism or crime, they will call the FBI and it will become a crime scene.”

There has been some confusion about who owns the bridge. A BNSF spokesman said it was state-owned.

Wilson said early Monday that the bridge belonged to BNSF and that the railroad was responsible for inspecting it. But Wilson later said ownership was unclear.

Officials did not provide details about the truck driver’s death, citing the ongoing investigation.

No injuries were reported to the BNSF crew, according to Kendall Kirkham Sloan, a spokesman for the Fort Worth, Texas-based freight railroad. BNSF personnel were working with responding agencies to clear the incident as safely as possible, Kirkham Sloan said.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on social media that he had been in contact with Polis and had been briefed by the Federal Railroad and Federal Highway Administrations, which stood ready to help support a rapid return to normal use of highways and rail roads.

Unlike highway bridges, government agencies do not index railroad bridges, and it is largely up to railroads to inspect and maintain the bridges they own. Federal officials monitor inspection programs through audits but there is no inventory of the condition of the bridges.

There are between 61,000 and more than 100,000 railroad bridges across the United States, according to figures provided by the Federal Railroad Administration. The agency defines bridges as spanning 20 feet or more, while some railroads count even short crossings over waterways as bridges.

Congress has set standards for government oversight of bridges, and Railroad Administration officials have previously said they were unable to unilaterally change that approach.

Sunday’s accident follows a Railway bridge collapse in June along the Montana Rail Road in southern Montana, causing rail cars loaded with petroleum products to fall into the Yellowstone River. Molten sulfur poured and up to 250 tons (226.7 metric tons) of hot asphalt. The collapse, which is still under investigation, involved a steel bridge.

This is different from the type of bridge that Colorado officials said collapsed on Sunday. The bridge near the pueblo was a steel-girder bridge 188 feet (57 meters) long, Wilson said. He said it was 14 feet (4 meters) wide and 16.3 feet (five meters) clear.

Despite the two recent accidents, Kempe said it was “extremely unusual” for railway bridges to collapse. Bridges are essential parts of rail networks and companies have a vested interest in maintaining them properly, Kempe said. He said some of the railway bridges are more than a century old but are still in good condition.

“The railroads take much better care of their bridges than our government does of our road bridges and highways,” he said. “If you have a bridge, it’s a big problem.”

At least 111 rail accidents have occurred due to bridge failure or bridge misalignment since 1976, according to an Associated Press review of federal accident records. That’s just over two incidents per year on average.

Records show that these derailments collectively caused losses estimated at $40 million. This number does not include the ship’s derailment in June. Only one accident resulted in one death and dozens injured, after an Amtrak train derailed in Arizona in 1997 while crossing a bridge damaged by runoff from heavy rains.

President Joe Biden CS Wind, the world’s largest wind tower manufacturing facility, was scheduled to visit Pueblo on Monday, but postponed the trip to focus on the growing conflict in the Middle East. The White House said a few hours before Biden was scheduled to take off that the trip would be rescheduled.

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Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Washington, D.C., and Josh Funk in Omaha, Nebraska, and AP photographer David Zalubowski contributed to this story. Brown contributed from Billings.

    (Tags for translation) Colorado 

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