ACCIDENTS & INJURIES

Semitruck driver killed when Colorado train derails, spilling coal cars and closing major highway

Oct 16, 2023, 11:40 AM | Updated: 11:46 am

In this photo released by the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office, police respond to the scene of a trai...

In this photo released by the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office, police respond to the scene of a train derailment near Pueblo, Colo., Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023. The train derailment Sunday spewed coal and mangled train cars across the highway. (Joshua Johnson/Pueblo County Sheriff's Office)

(Joshua Johnson/Pueblo County Sheriff's Office)

DENVER (AP) — A semi-trailer truck driver was killed when a train derailed and a bridge collapsed, spewing coal and mangled train cars across a major highway near Pueblo, Colorado that was closed indefinitely, authorities said Monday.

The 60-year-old driver was initially said to be trapped in Sunday’s accident along Interstate 25, but authorities said Monday that he had died. No other vehicles were involved, Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Gayle Perez said.

The Colorado State Patrol and the sheriff’s office posted photos and videos showing a partially collapsed bridge over the interstate with the semi-truck caught beneath. The images also show a pileup of train cars, train wheels scattered across the scene and loads of coal covering a portion of the highway.

The highway — the main north-south highway in Colorado — remained closed Monday morning. The Colorado Department of Transportation said it would be an “extended closure” as local law enforcement officials waited for federal investigators to arrive.

The bridge was built in 1958 according to Colorado Department of Transportation records, department spokesperson Bob Wilson said. BNSF owns the bridge and is responsible for inspecting it, he said. It was unclear when the bridge collapsed, state patrol spokesperson Gary Cutler said.

A 60-year-old man driving a semi-truck caught in the wreckage was killed, according to Gabriel Moltrer, a spokesperson for Colorado State Patrol. Moltrer didn’t offer more details about the man’s death, citing an ongoing investigation.

The National Transportation Safety Board was sending investigators to the site about 114 miles (183 kilometers) south of Denver.

Until investigators are able to asses the scene, it’s unknown what the timeline for the highway’s reopening will be, said Perez.

The BNSF train carrying coal derailed on a bridge over Interstate 25 just north of Pueblo around 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, according to Kendall Kirkham Sloan, a spokesperson for the Fort Worth, Texas-based freight railroad. There were no reported injuries to BNSF crew. The cause of the derailment was under investigation and 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 touch with Gov. Jared Polis and had been briefed by the Federal Railroad and Federal Highway administrations on the derailment and collapse. He said officials would be ready to help support a swift return to normal use for the highway and rail routes.

Unlike highway bridges, no one catalogs rail bridges and it’s largely up to the railroads to inspect and maintain them.

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

Pueblo is one of the anchors of Colorado’s sprawling Third Congressional District, which covers more ground than the state of Pennsylvania. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a combative Trump loyalist, won the seat in 2020 and barely held on to it during the 2022 midterms. Boebert has described Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, the president’s signature domestic legislation and the source of hundreds of billions of dollars for clean energy incentives, as “a massive failure” that “needs to be repealed.”

railroad bridge collapse in southern Montana in June sent railcars with oil products plunging into the Yellowstone River, spilling molten sulfur and up to 250 tons (226.7 metric tons) of hot asphalt.

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Semitruck driver killed when Colorado train derails, spilling coal cars and closing major highway