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Published January 08, 2014, 08:23 PM

911 calls from Casselton derailment show crew member first reported his train carried ethanol

CASSELTON, N.D. – After two trains collided on Dec. 30 and sent flames and thick black smoke into the sky here last week, a member of the BNSF train crew initially told dispatchers his train was hauling ethanol – not crude oil.

By: Forum Staff reports, INFORUM

CASSELTON, N.D. – After two trains collided on Dec. 30 and sent flames and thick black smoke into the sky here last week, a member of the BNSF train crew initially told dispatchers his train was hauling ethanol – not crude oil.

That’s according to audio of the BNSF employee’s call into 911, which was released to the Forum on Wednesday along with about a dozen other 911 calls from Casselton residents about the fiery train crash.

The man, who identified himself as part of the train crew, sounded distraught as he described the scene and told a dispatcher there was ethanol on board.

“We’re walking away from it. It looks like there are two trains. We’re trying to figure it out yet,” the man said.

It’s unclear why a member of the train crew believed the 106 cars in his westbound train were carrying ethanol. Investigators on the scene quickly discovered crude oil from western North Dakota was on board.

The fire started about 2:10 p.m. Dec. 30 when a westbound grain train derailed about a half-mile west of Casselton and was eventually hit by an eastbound train carrying crude oil. More than 10 oil cars caught fire and exploded. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash.

Most of the 911 calls are less than a half-minute long, with callers informing dispatchers about a fire near town and quickly hanging up.

A caller who also identified himself as part of the train crew called in, asking for permission to approach the train and unhook cars from the fire that erupted.

“We’re in position here if we get the OK from somebody if they want us to make a cut on this train and pull part of it away,” he said.

Check back to inforum.com for more on this developing story.

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