Two train crew members were killed and two others injured in a freight train crash in Union County that crumpled train cars and forced the evacuations of nearby homes early Tuesday, officials and witnesses said.
CSX spokesman Bob Sullivan said two locomotives were traveling east through the town of Mineral Springs when one train struck the other from behind about 3:45 a.m. and cars on both trains derailed.
Authorities told a dozen people to leave nearby homes because of smoke from a fire that started after the crash. Union County spokesman Brett Vines said fuel from the locomotive engines was burning. An earlier report that one of the trains was carrying cooking oil was incorrect, Vines said.
Sullivan said no hazardous materials were being hauled.
“We don’t know how fast they were traveling and we don’t know exactly how it happened,” Sullivan said. “Obviously, there will be an investigation into all those details.”
Vines said the wreckage was still burning Tuesday evening on the track that bisects the one-stoplight town about 20 miles southeast of Charlotte. He said firefighters likely would have the blaze out by Tuesday night and evacuees should be able to return home Wednesday.
Vines said one CSX engineer was pronounced dead at the scene of the wreck, while a second died at Carolinas Medical Center shortly after 4 a.m. Tuesday. Their names were not immediately released.
Two other crew members were treated at the scene.
Ray Arvin said he saw the blaze and the crumpled mass of train cars about 8 a.m. when he got to his office just a few yards from the railroad track that runs parallel to N.C. 75. Police had cordoned off the area, so Arvin had to walk several blocks to reach his workplace at Blythe Co.
“When the second engine slammed into the back of the train, the front engine just folded and the train cars stacked up on top of each other,” he said.
Each of the trains had two locomotives. One carrying 12 freight cars was en route from Atlanta to Charlotte. The other had nine freight cars and was traveling from New Orleans to Hamlet, N.C., Sullivan said.
Diane Countryman, wife of a Mineral Springs council member, said emergency personnel were keeping the site cordoned off throughout the day Tuesday, and not even allowing local officials near the site.
Countryman said local residents are accustomed to train traffic through the town, which has a population of 2,500, but wrecks are rare.
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