SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP (AP) Officials yesterday worked to clear the wreckage of a fiery crash between two Canadian National freight trains that left two men dead and two others seriously hurt.
The nearly head-on crash happened about 6 a.m. in this marshy, wooded area of rural Oakland County, spilling about 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel, Undersheriff Thomas Quisenberry said.
Two nearby schools closed, and some residents were briefly evacuated as a precaution until officials determined no hazardous materials had leaked.
The National Transportation Safety Board was sending investigators to the site, agency spokesman Terry Williams said.
The cause of the crash was unknown. FBI officials were at the scene earlier, but Canadian National spokesman Peter Marshall said “we don”t have any indication of anything unnatural or sabotage.”
Thomas Landris, 49, of Duran, an engineer, and Gary Chase, 58, of Owosso, a conductor, were killed, railroad spokesman Jack Burke said. Landris had worked for Canadian National for 20 years, and Chase was a 32-year employee, he said.
Allen Yash, an engineer from Fenton, and Jesse Enriquez, a conductor from Detroit, were hospitalized, Burke said. Their ages were unavailable.
Landris” and Chase”s train was headed north to Flint, the other south to Detroit, Quisenberry said.
The accident happened while most of the southbound train was on a side track and the other was moving on the main line. It wasn”t known how fast the trains were going or whether the train on the side track was moving when the crash happened.
Trains typically travel about 40 mph through the area, Quisenberry said.
Investigators were looking into whether human error, a problem at the switching station, an overnight thunderstorm in the area or other factors played a role, railroad spokeswoman Gloria Combe said.
Three locomotives were tipped over and broken in pieces, said Quisenberry, who described the crash site as a “grisly scene.” Each train had two locomotives. The fourth was left standing. Several rail cars also tipped, but nothing spilled, he said.
Marshall said investigators would review the event recorders that were on the trains and any spoken communication with dispatchers. He said it isn”t unusual for investigations to take several days.