Train derails, causes fire on Arizona bridge

Train derails, causes fire on Arizona bridge
A train derailed as it crossed an Arizona bridge early Wednesday, causing a fire on the trestle span. (Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

TEMPE, Ariz. — A train hauling lumber and chemicals derailed and caught fire as it crossed an Arizona bridge on Wednesday, causing portions of the span to collapse.

The Union Pacific train was crossing Tempe Town Lake around 6:15 a.m. when it derailed, the The Arizona Republic reported. Eight to 10 of the freight cars caught fire and the bridge’s south side collapsed, which caused three cars to tumble into an empty park below the span, Union Pacific Railroad spokesman Tim McMahan said in a statement.

Two of the cars that fell were hauling cyclohexane and the other was hauling a rubber material, McMahan told KNXV in an email. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, cyclohexanone is a colorless oily liquid that is both flammable and an irritant. It is mostly used for the production of nylon, KTVK reported.

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More than 90 firefighters from the Tempe Fire Department and other agencies responded to the blaze, KNXV reported.

A spokesman said the train crew was not injured, but one person at the park was treated for smoke inhalation, KTVK reported.

The cause of the accident is under investigation. Terry Williams, a spokesperson with the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed to the Republic that the federal agency will be involved.

“We are still in the very early stages of this investigation,” Williams told the newspaper. “We would not be able to comment on anything that may have caused this accident.”

The steel-beamed trestle bridge was built in 1912 to carry cargo across the Salt River, the Republic reported. Despite being reinforced over the years, most of the span’s original construction remained intact, the newspaper reported. 

Wednesday’s incident was the second time a Union Pacific train had derailed on that bridge in less than a month, according to KTVK. On June 26, 12 cars derailed from the bridge, McMahan said. The tracks were open within 48 hours after the derailment, McMahan said.