Three crew members are missing and one person injured following a head-on train collision in northern Texas early on 28 June. Panhandle City Hall officials said the trains crashed shortly before 8.30am CDT/2.30pm BST along Highway 60 east of Panhandle, Texas.
The fiery crash caused several box cars to go up in flames and forced authorities to evacuate residents in the area, The Associated Press reported. City officials said they were using the city's water supply to fill fire trucks' tanks as they battled the blaze. The Texas A&M Forest Service is providing suppression foam to firefighters as well.
According to the Amarillo Globe-News, the city has requested residents cut back on all water usage to fight the fire.
Two BNSF Railway freight trains, each carrying two crew members, were on the same track when the crash occurred. BNSF spokesman Joe Faust told reporters that one of the crew members jumped before the collision and was being treated at Northwest Texas Healthcare System in Amarillo. Hospital marketing director Patrick Buckley said the man was in stable condition.
BNSF investigative crews were assisting in rescue efforts to locate the remaining three, NBC News reported. Faust said it was unclear how fast the trains were traveling or why the trains were on the same track.
According to the AP, BNSF and other freight carriers have vowed to adopt positive train control or PTC by the 2018 federal deadline. PTC, which relies on wireless radio, GPS and computers to monitor the train, can automatically slow or stop trains that are at risk of colliding, derailing or enter a track that may be off limits. Faust said it was not clear if the technology was being used at the time of the crash.
The freight trains were transporting a variety of consumer goods, Faust said.
"I don't know how anyone survived," Billy Brown, a local farmer who witnessed the fire following the collision, told the Amarillo Globe-News. "It's terrible. I've seen a number of train wrecks but I've never seen one like this."
Keith Holloway, spokesman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said the agency had begun an investigation. The AP reported that the Federal Railroad Administration said agency investigators were on site. The fire continued to burn into the afternoon, Texas Department of Public Safety Sergeant Dan Buesing said.
According to the Globe-News, authorities were forced to evacuate residents in the area. A mandatory evacuation for residents living south of 7th Street and east of Highway 207 is in place, Panhandle City Secretary Roni Wilburn said. Wind shifts had caused the evacuation. Traffic is being diverted off US Highway 60 and onto highway 207.