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Fiery Train Derailment in KY Spills Ethanol into River

Kentucky train derailment
First responders are on the scene of a train derailment at in eastern Kentucky, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. Two crew members of the CSX train were initially trapped and a flammable liquid was leaking into a nearby river, said Charles Maynard with Pike County Emergency Management. Maynard said he wan't sure if the crew members were injured but that crews were trying to extricate them. He wasn't aware of any other reports of possible injuries. (Russ Cassady/Appalachian News-Express via AP)

By REBECCA REYNOLDS YONKER Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A large rock slide caused a fiery train derailment Thursday morning in eastern Kentucky that briefly trapped two crew members and caused a chemical leak into a river, authorities said.

Two crew members of the CSX train were initially trapped in a flaming locomotive along the river’s edge before climbing out and waiting for firefighters to rescue them by boat. They were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, officials said.

There weren’t any other reports of injuries.

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CSX said in a statement that the train derailed into the Big Sandy River around 7 a.m. due to a rock slide over the tracks. The derailment happened in the small community of Draffin, about 160 miles (255 kilometers) southeast of Lexington, Kentucky. Video showed a wooded area behind homes ablaze shortly after the derailment occurred.

CSX said the train had 96 cars carrying ethanol and two cars loaded with rocks. It was not clear how many cars derailed.

One locomotive and an unknown number of cars caught fire.

The blaze was still going nearly four hours later. Kentucky State Police spokesman William Petry said authorities were not sure whether diesel fuel or ethanol was fueling the blaze, but authorities decided to let the fire burn itself out since it did not pose a public safety threat.

“Luckily the train wasn’t going very fast, so it saved them from a major disaster,” Petry said.

No homes were damaged in the sparsely populated area and residents who were briefly evacuated have been allowed to return.

CSX said it had mobilized its emergency teams and were working with local authorities.

Petry said the slide that caused the derailment was large.

Heavy rains have caused flooding and multiple rock slides in the region since last week. Pike County got 3-4 inches of rain last week and probably another inch over the last 48 hours, said Dustin Jordan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending team of six to investigate the derailment.

The public is being asked to avoid the area if possible, police said.

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