Six people suffer injuries in accident

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 3, 2007

MYRTLEWOOD &8212; A train carrying solid jet propulsion fuel used in the space shuttle derailed early Tuesday morning injuring six people.

The Marengo County Emergency Management Agency coordinated the rescue of six passengers aboard the train. EMA officials said five of the six received only minor injuries mostly consisting of broken bones, cuts and abrasions.

Three of the six injured persons were airlifted, two to DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa and one to a Mobile hospital. The injured person in Mobile was treated and released. At DCH, one was listed as in critical condition and the other one as in good condition.

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The other three injured persons were sent to Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital. Two were treated and released. The other was being held for observation.

John Reese, public information officer for the Alabama Highway Patrol, said the derailment took place between 8:30 and 9 a.m. The first 911 call to Marengo County came at approximately 9 a.m., minutes before a countywide emergency scenario simulation was to begin. The simulation was cancelled.

The derailment occurred when a trestle bridge over a swampy area collapsed. The Alabama Emergency Management Agency said the four derailed train cars landed on their side on the ground in the woods next to the tracks, none of the cargo spilled, and there appeared to be no fire.

Twelve rail cars remained upright. It appears those cars didn&8217;t overturn because the trestle &8212; about 300 to 400 feet long &8212; sank evenly to the ground, Mike Rudolphi, a spokesperson for the boosters&8217; manufacturer who went to the site, said.

The derailment was in a remote stretch of track the Choctaw County line. Marengo County Sheriff&8217;s Deputy Kenneth Collier said he was unaware of any threat posed to the public.

Eight rocket motors were on the train when it derailed. The rocket motors are used to propel the solid rocket boosters of a space shuttle. Each solid rocket booster use four rocket motors each.

The fuel in the rocket motor, aluminum perchlorate, has the consistency of a rubber eraser and there was no danger of it igniting, according to NASA.

NASA spokesman Kyle Herring said the segments were not scheduled for use during the next shuttle flight, the liftoff of Atlantis on June 8, but for missions in October and December. NASA&8217;s solid rocket boosters and their parts are freely interchangeable.

It was the second time in less than a week that the train jumped the tracks while carrying the booster segments across the country from the manufacturer, ATK Launch Systems Group of Promontory, Utah, to Cape Canaveral, Fla., Herring said.

Last Friday, two axles on one car came off the tracks for unknown reasons about 60 miles west of Salina, Kan., while the train was traveling at less than 20 mph, Herring said. The train was back on the tracks after several hours, the spokesman said.

Meridian and Bigbee of Meridian, Miss., was hauling the equipment and owns the trestle, said Mike Williams, a spokesman for Bigbee parent Genesee&Wyoming Inc. of Greenwich, Conn. The bridge was closed for repairs Sunday night and reopened Wednesday morning, he said.

He said that he was unsure of the nature of the repairs but that the bridge was inspected.

NASA officials said two locomotives, a train car behind them, and one car with a shuttle booster overturned.

A spokesman for the manufacturer, Bryce Hallowell, said the train was taking the same route to the Kennedy Space Center that has been used for 30 years or more. The train trip can take more than a week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.