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Broken rail caused Pueblo train derailment that collapsed bridge, preliminary findings show

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Colorado Train Derailment
Colorado Train Derailment
Colorado Train Derailment
Posted at 1:19 PM, Oct 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-17 19:35:06-04

PUEBLO, Colo. — The National Transportation Safety Board revealed that preliminary findings indicate a broken rail caused a deadly train derailment that collapsed a bridge over Interstate 25 near Pueblo, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

A man was killed when the steel bridge, built in 1958, collapsed onto his semi-truck that was passing beneath the bridge. He was identified by the Pueblo County Coroner as Lafollette Henderson, 60, of Compton, California.

Thirty cars from a BNSF train hauling coal derailed while crossing over the interstate at 4:45 p.m. Sunday. The derailment scattered coal and mangled railroad cars across both lanes of I-25.

Officials will investigate how the rail broke and why warning systems did not alert crews to the condition of the track, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a news release.

Broken rails and other track problems are a leading cause of derailments, according to federal accident data.

The NTSB has previously recommended that railroads install more automatic monitoring systems that can detect problems with tracks early on and prevent accidents. The agency repeated its call for those systems in July in response to a fatal Amtrak derailment along BNSF-owned tracks in northern Montana two years ago.

It was not immediately known whether the track where Sunday's derailment occurred had such a system. NTSB spokesperson Sarah Taylor Sulick said that was under investigation.

Broken rail caused Pueblo train derailment that collapsed bridge, NTSB says

Both directions of I-25 are expected to remain closed for several more days as crews clear piles of coal and other debris from the site.

HOW TO GET AROUND THE CLOSURE IF YOU LIVE SOUTH OF FOUNTAIN

Drivers who may live or work south of Fountain and may be traveling toward Pueblo will be detoured to exit 110 toward Overton Road then toward Jerry Murphy; drivers will then head toward I-25 via westbound Colorado Highway 47.

This access route is recommended for local traffic only, the CDOT spokesperson said.

HOW TO GET AROUND THE CLOSURE IF YOU LIVE AROUND COLORADO SPRINGS

If you’re going south: Take Colorado Highway 115 toward Penrose and then turn east on US Highway 50 toward Pueblo.

If you’re going north: Exit I-25 at US Highway 50/Colorado Highway 47 and travel west toward Colorado Highway 115. Drivers will then head north toward Colorado Springs. 

Those using Highway 115 will encounter a 12-mile-long construction project and should expect “temporary driving surfaces and frequent traffic pattern changes. Impacts include only one lane being open in each direction, reduced speed limit of 45 mph and there’s a width restriction of 11-feet.

Vehicles over 11 feet should seek alternative routes other than CO 115: Those driving east should use US 50, CO 96 or CO 17. Those heading west should use US 50 and then use US 285.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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