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Derailment in Phoenix snarls traffic, ties up operations

A train derailment in Phoenix on Thursday, June 29, 2017, caused a traffic jam and was expected to close the road for at least 12 hours. (Photo by Tom Perumean/KTAR News)

PHOENIX — It wasn’t a good day for the for the BNSF Railway.

An arriving freight train pulling into the company’s yard at 19th Avenue around 10:30 a.m. Thursday suffered a derailment of five automobile carriers mid-train as they were negotiating a curve near McDowell Road.

The intersection would be closed to traffic until Friday at 6:30 a.m.

According to eyewitness Trevor Agee, one car appeared to be derailed as it rounded the curve.

“I noticed it hadn’t straightened out and was kind of dragging, picking up dirt, and I told my driver Adam, ‘Hey, you better back up before this thing falls over on us!’” Agee said.

He went on to describe the wreck taking place in what appeared to be slow motion as the derailed car hit the concrete embedded tracks at the crossing at McDowell Road and jumped back on the rails. But as the train slammed to a stop, the five cars trailing it derailed — with one about to tip over when it wedged against the leading and trailing cars and got stuck, in a precarious leaning position, but not completely falling over. The cars behind left the tracks and compressed in an accordion-like fashion.

With an auto-carrier completely blocking McDowell Road, BNSF crews shut down the roadway and set about inspecting the wreck.

By mid-afternoon wreck-recovery crews from Flagstaff-based Gandy Dancer and Tucson-based R.J. Corman Railroad Group arrived with heavy duty cranes mounted to bulldozers to lift the derailed cars and clear the scene.  BNSF Public Affairs Representative Lena Kent said the auto-carriers were loaded, but would provide what make/model of vehicle was on board.

The investigation in to the derailment will be conducted by the Arizona Corporation Commission’s Safety Division.

The BNSF mainline into the yard appeared to be out of service for the duration of the accident which was expected to be cleared around 9 p.m.

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