April 5, 2005 in Region

BNSF received warning about tracks

Associated Press
Associated Press photo

On Monday, a TV crew from KATU in Portland surveys the damage done to an Amtrak train that derailed Sunday. Workers moved the train to this siding in Stevenson, Wash.
(Full-size photo)

STEVENSON, Wash. – Federal investigators Monday were looking into reports that some sections of a southwest Washington railroad track had given trains a rough ride in the days before a four-car passenger train derailed, injuring more than two dozen people.

A federal railroad inspector reported rough riding March 23 on track about 250 feet from the accident site, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Cy Gura said at a news conference in this Columbia River Gorge community about 10 miles west of the derailment.

At the time, BNSF Railway Co., which owns and operates the track, acknowledged receiving the report and said it would respond, but did no other follow-up, Gura said.

“They didn’t do anything about that report,” he said, adding that there had been four recent reports of rough riding on area track.

A spokesman for Fort Worth, Texas-based BNSF said that while the accident was under investigation, all comments on the matter would be made by the NTSB.

The track was reopened late Monday afternoon, said Seattle-based railway spokesman Gus Melonas. The derailed cars had been removed, he said.

The locomotive on a four-car Amtrak passenger train carrying 107 passengers and eight crew members jumped the tracks at 60 mph Sunday morning, about 40 miles east of Vancouver, Wash. The accident left the cars partially upright, leaning at a 45-degree angle against an embankment alongside the track.

Authorities said 26 people were treated for injuries, none of them life-threatening.

After the accident, those who could travel were loaded onto school buses and taken to Vancouver and Portland, the destinations of the train that had left Spokane earlier in the day.

The cause of the derailment “could be anything,” Gura said, suggesting there could have been an alignment problem, a warp, or a slight drop in elevation on one side of the tracks.

The derailment occurred on the main Columbia River Gorge rail line. About 40 trains use that track daily – two passenger trains, one in each direction, and dozens of freight trains. Nine freight trains were rerouted Sunday.

Amtrak spokeswoman Sarah Swain said Sunday the company hoped to resume service on the line by today.

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