UNION PACIFIC TRAIN COLLISION LEAVES TWO RAILROAD WORKERS DEAD, TWO OTHERS SEVERELY INJURED
A horrific, head-on collision between two Union Pacific freight cars rocked the quiet town of Hoxie, Arkansas in the early morning hours of Sunday, August 17. Two crew members died in the crash, and two others were severely injured. An explosive fire caused the evacuation of local residents, while derailed train cars closed two local highways.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the collision. As reported by the Associated Press, one of the NTSB investigators stated that the southbound train was supposed to have stopped at a signal, allowing the northbound train to move onto a side track, before continuing. However, the signal was destroyed in the crash, and it is unknown at this point whether or not it had indicated that the train should have stopped. The southbound train did not stop at the signal, and then hit the northbound train head-on. The engineer and conductor on the southbound train were killed, and the engineer and conductor on the northbound train were rushed to local hospitals for emergency care.
The freight cars were carrying highly flammable materials – diesel and alcohol – and a fire started after the crash. Because of the dangers the fire posed to local residents, about 500 people who lived within a mile and half of the crash site were woken by authorities and instructed to immediately evacuate. The fire raged for seven hours before firefighters were able to extinguish it.
The force of the collision derailed numerous railcars, sending them overturning and crashing into each other. Highways U.S. 67 and 63 had to be shut down and traffic diverted for the cleanup.
Crashes like this one could potentially be prevented by a system called positive train control, or PTC. The PTC system uses GPS technology to monitor the locations and movements of trains. Despite the fact that the PTC system could prevent collisions, derailments, and human error, it has not been installed by the majority of railroads. Because the railroads have refused to act, Congress ordered the railroad industry to install the PTC system by the end of 2015 – however, it is estimated that the system will only be 20% in use by that date. The Union Pacific freight trains involved in the Hoxie crash were not using the PTC system.
The two surviving crew members are represented by the attorneys of Schlichter, Bogard & Denton in St. Louis. Jerry Schlichter, founding partner of the firm, stated: “Union Pacific is responsible for this crash. It’s a tragic example of the danger every railroad employee faces each day that he goes to work.”