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Train collision kills 1 in West Virginia

train June 8, 1997
Web posted at: 11:21 a.m. EDT (1521 GMT)

SCARY CREEK, West Virginia (CNN) -- One crew member was killed Saturday night when a freight train rear-ended a train carrying coal about 10 miles outside Charleston.

Two of the freight train's cars derailed, and cars carrying automobile parts burst into flames. Hundreds of nearby residents were evacuated because authorities feared the flames could spread to cars carrying sulfuric acid, bleach and other chemicals.

CSX Transportation spokeswoman Kathy Burns said a tank car carrying acetyl aldehyde was on fire, but had been doused "with a foam" to prevent the chemical's fumes from spreading.

Six people were on the two trains. The dead crew member and two injured crew members were on the freight train, Burns said. The injured were taken to a Charleston hospital, and Burns said their injuries don't appear serious. The three crew members aboard the coal train were not injured.

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State trooper R.D. Stonestreet, one of the first officers to arrive on the scene, said "the fire was burning so bright you couldn't really see what it was."

"The hillside was on fire," he said, "but there were no houses on fire."

The evacuated residents were being housed at a local school overnight, said Jennifer Wright, a spokeswoman at the Putnam County Sheriff's Department. Some residents were temporarily trapped in their homes by the wreckage, which blocked the only road out of the hollow where they lived, but Wright said that group was also evacuated.

"I saw fire shoot 100 to 150 feet in the air," said resident Steve Bowman. "I could smell the coal burning. I live close enough I could feel the heat from the fire."

Railroad spokesman Rob Gould said both trains were traveling to Virginia, but could not speculate on the cause of the crash.

 
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