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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Train derails south of Cocolalla Lake in Bonner County

From staff reports

A BNSF train carrying corn derailed Monday morning south of Sandpoint.

The crash was reported just after 6 a.m. south of Cocolalla Lake, according to Bonner County dispatchers.

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said the train was 110 cars long and carried only corn. He said about 25 cars in the middle went off the tracks, and five tipped onto their sides.

The crash didn’t cause a fire and no one was injured, but it stoked concerns about the safety of the tracks at a time when BNSF is moving forward with plans to build a second rail bridge over Lake Pend Oreille. Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad has voiced opposition to that project, citing concerns about increased shipping of coal and crude oil.

If the corn from Monday’s derailment were instead a toxic fuel, Rognstad said, the effect on the environment “would have been absolutely devastating.”

“If we can’t ensure that our tracks are safe, it doesn’t make sense to keep building tracks, particularly over our waterways,” he said.

Melonas said the train that derailed Monday had originated in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and was headed to Kalama, Washington.

About 60 trains a day, including Amtrak, use the line where the derailment occurred. The crash blocked both tracks on the line, Melonas said.

The railroad hopes to have the tracks cleared in time to resume service by noon Tuesday. Equipment was on the way to the scene from Libby, Montana, and Pasco to move the blocking cars and repair tracks, Melonas said.

Train cars that are heavily damaged likely will be cut up and removed from the scene.

The derailment partially blocked U.S. Highway 95, which runs parallel to the tracks, but the highway remained open.