Train crashes, catches fire on Tempe Town Lake bridge

Jul 29, 2020, 6:43 AM | Updated: 3:32 pm

PHOENIX – A fiery train derailment smashed through part of a bridge and sent black smoke high into the sky near downtown Tempe early Wednesday.

The Union Pacific train crashed on a bridge on the south side of Tempe Town Lake around 6:15 a.m., authorities said.

There were no injuries, but one person was treated for smoke inhalation, a Union Pacific spokesman told KTAR News 92.3 FM in an email.

Railroad ties were damaged, causing a partial collapse of the bridge. Rail cars fell through the gap and landed in a park, which was empty.

Police and firefighters were on the scene, with a crew of more than 100 from several Valley fire departments battling the blaze.

The freight train included cars carrying lumber as well as tankers. About eight to 10 of the cars caught fire, the rail company said. Some cars fell through the gap onto a park below. None of the tankers were leaking or had burned, Union Pacific said.

Two were carrying cyclohexanone, a pale and oily liquid that is toxic and flammable. A third tank car was carrying a “rubber material,” said in the email.

The railroad company said the bridge had been inspected July 9.

Deputy Chief Andrea Glass of Tempe Fire Medical Rescue said there was a “potential derailment” that occurred on June 26 but that it was a minor incident.

“It’s all hands on deck,” Mayor Corey Woods said. “From what we learned, there were no toxic materials but of course, the situation is rapidly evolving.”

Nearby traffic was affected. Loop 202 was closed for about five hours in both directions between State Route 143 and Loop 101, the Arizona Department of Transportation said. The freeway reopened around 1 p.m.

Street traffic was rerouted – Rio Salado Parkway was shut down from Priest Drive to Ash Avenue and so was the Mill Avenue Bridge. Valley Metro light rail was unable to cross Tempe Town Lake Bridge.

There were no estimated times for reopenings.

Phoenix Sky Harbor was moderately altering some outbound flight paths to minimize airplane noise around the crash site to help firefighters’ efforts, the FAA said in an email to KTAR News.

The lake was closed until further notice, police said in a tweet.

Cause of the wreck was under investigation. The FBI was to assist with the investigation.

“I would assume that investigation would go on for quite some time considering the magnitude of this event,” Glass said.

Gov. Doug Ducey commended “the quick actions of first responders this morning to protect live and property” in a press release.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross, Jeremy Foster and Taylor Kinnerup contributed to this report.

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Train crashes, catches fire on Tempe Town Lake bridge