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Sept. 18, 2021

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Coal train partially derails east of Wintler Park

Portion of one railcar carrying coal derails, no coal spilled

By , Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith, and
, Columbian staff writer
Published:
3 Photos
A coal train partially derailed Wednesday morning about a mile from Wintler Park in Vancouver.
A coal train partially derailed Wednesday morning about a mile from Wintler Park in Vancouver. (Ariane Kunze/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A BNSF Railway railcar loaded with coal partially derailed in a Vancouver neighborhood around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Company spokesman Gus Melonas said one set of the car’s wheels went off the track, but the car remained upright and no coal was spilled. The car was re-railed by midday, and the line was opened up by about 3:30 Wednesday afternoon, Melonas said. However, the derailment delayed 18 trains that use the line.

Melonas said close to 20 BNSF employees were on site to investigate exactly where and why the car partially derailed.

“We’re continuing to investigate. … We have determined track failure was not the cause,” Melonas said. He added that the line is inspected by BNSF seven days a week, and the derailment did not pose an environmental threat.

The 122-car train was heading to British Columbia from Montana when it derailed about a mile east of Vancouver’s Wintler Park along Southeast Evergreen Highway.

Vancouver Police Department spokeswoman Kim Kapp said police dispatch put out a call shortly after the derailment happened, but no assistance was needed.

Amanda Maxwell, spokeswoman for the Washington Utilities Transportation Commission, which oversees rail operations in the state, said the incident didn’t appear to warrant the agency’s involvement. The damage doesn’t appear meet the $50,000 threshold for an incident to be reported, and state statute doesn’t consider coal a hazardous substance.

“We’ve reached out to the company, and we’ll be making sure the track is back in good condition,” Maxwell said. “At this point it doesn’t seem like it’s a reportable incident for us.”

Janet Matkin, spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Transportation’s rail division, said Amtrak trains that use the line reported no delays.

The partial derailment happened in an area where there is only one set of tracks. Between 35 and 45 trains travel the line daily, but the number of coal trains vary.

Most area residents that spoke with The Columbian later in the day said they were unaware that the derailment had occurred.

Cheyl Boethin, who lives right in front of the tracks, said she heard a loud, long screech when the train stopped.

“I thought he must have really slammed on his brakes,” she said. “I thought maybe he hit something. …It scared me to death.”

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Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
Columbian staff writer
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