ANACORTES, Wash. — An improperly aligned derail was responsible for the derailment of a BNSF Railway train on the Swinomish Reservation last week, a Federal Railroad Administration representative told a local National Public Radio station.
KUOW radio reports the derail, which is mean to keep trains from proceeding when a swing bridge over a portion of Puget Sound is open, was improperly aligned while the bridge was closed to allow the train to cross.
The two locomotives and one car of the five-car train overturned, leading to a leak of an estimated 3,100 gallons of diesel fuel [see “BNSF derailment spills fuel …,” Trains News Wire, March 17, 2023].
FRA spokesman Warren Flatau told KUOW that there had been “miscommunication between the train crew and bridge tender,” with neither party fully following procedures. Herb Krohn, Washington state legislative director for SMART-TD, the union representing operating crews, agreed in an email to the station. He wrote that it appeared “there was a miscommunication between the crew and the bridge tender regarding the lining of the bridge and the lowering of the derails.”
A spokeswoman for the railroad declined to comment, KUOW reports.
Because the accident occurred on tribal land, the FRA sent an official to monitor cleanup of the fuel spill but is not conducting a full investigation, Flatau said.
Samish Indian Nation chair Tom Wooten first told KUOW about the role of the derail. He had been brief by officials at the accident scene.