Freight Train Crash Shuts Down Highway as Railcars Burn

No injuries reported after accident involving fuel-carrying train near Arizona-New Mexico border
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 27, 2024 6:00 AM CDT
Freight Train Derails, Bursts Into Flames
This screenshot taken from video shows a freight train carrying fuel that derailed and caught fire on Friday near the New Mexico-Arizona state line, east of Lupton, Arizona.   (Bryan Wilson via AP)

A freight train carrying fuel derailed and caught fire Friday near the Arizona-New Mexico state line, forcing the closure of an interstate highway that serves as a key trucking route. Initial passersby posted video and photos on social media of crumpled train cars and billowing, black smoke. No injuries were reported in the midday train wreck near Lupton, Arizona, per the AP. BNSF Railway spokesperson Lena Kent said company personnel were on site working to clear the wreckage. Kent noted that the cause of the derailment is under investigation. Interstate 40 was closed by authorities in both directions in the area in the early afternoon, directing trucks and motorists off the freeway to alternate routes, New Mexico State Police and the Arizona Department of Public Safety announced.

The train was transporting non-odorous propane and gasoline, and a half-dozen rail cars caught fire and burned for hours after the derailment, New Mexico State Police Lt. Phil Vargas said. "It looks like they're just letting those [rail]cars burn themselves out," he added. Nearby residences and a truck stop were evacuated as a precaution as winds carried away thick smoke and local firefighting crews responded. The derailment also led Amtrak to cancel some passenger travel, including on the route between Los Angeles and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Traffic on I-40 backed up for more than 10 miles, though detours were opened on two-lane roads and highways, said a rep for the New Mexico Department of Transportation. The agency warned Friday evening of an extended highway closure that would increase traffic on other interstate highways, including I-25 and I-10. The Arizona Corporation Commission that oversees railroad safety said in a social media post on X that 10 railcars were involved in the derailment, and that two were transporting liquid petroleum. The agency said it planned to send a railroad inspector to the site but later learned the derailment happened on the New Mexico side of the tracks. (More freight train stories.)

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