Cause of April 13 train derailment in Lafayette determined

LAFAYETTE, La. (The Daily Advertiser) – The cause of a April 13 train derailment in Lafayette has been determined by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway company.

According to a report BNSF filed with the Federal Railroad Administration, a broken brake beam on one rail car caused six cars to derail around 11:15 a.m. on April 13.

That differs slightly from information released the day of the derailment by law enforcement officials who indicated 11 rail cars ran off the tracks around 10:30 a.m..

About 138 homes and at least two businesses, including a day care center, were evacuated until about 8:30 p.m. April 13.

Emergency response officials ordered the evacuations as a precaution because one rail car carrying phosphoric acid had derailed and was leaning to the side.

Phosphoric acid is caustic and can cause medical problems including blurred vision, difficulty swallowing or breathing and gastrointestinal distress. None of the rail cars leaked, they said.

However, on the report BNSF submitted to the FRA, the company replied “N/A” where the form asked if any of the cars contained hazardous material and if people were evacuated.

The train consisted of one locomotive at the head of the train and 35 freight cars, according to the report. The car that derailed was 32nd in line.

One engineer/operator and one conductor were on board at the time of the derailment, which occurred just past the Ambassador Caffery Parkway overpass on Pecan Grove Road between Cameron and Willow streets.

It’s not uncommon for railroad companies to investigate minor derailments in which they are involved.

An FRA representative was on the site of the derailment April 23 but a spokesman for the agency under the U.S. Department of Transportation said the derailment did not meet the FRA’s criteria for the agency to investigate.

Another minor BNSF derailment occurred Jan. 1 in Lafayette, according to a report on the FRA website. Three rail cars derailed in the rail yard due to a switch that was either damaged or out of adjustment, BNSF reported.

BNSF also reported two minor derailments in 2015.

The first, on Jan. 28, involved a 21-car train in the yard in which three cars derailed due to failure to control a “shove movement,” BNSF reported. Three cars carried hazardous material but nothing was released.

The second 2015 derailment was on Feb. 11 when one car of 39 derailed while making a reverse move through a switch that was not cleared beforehand, according to the report. Most of the cars were empty.

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