Train derails in McKenzie; 100 residents evacuated

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 5, 2000

An Alabama & Florida Railway Co. freight train carrying several hazardous chemicals derailed and overturned Friday around noon about two miles north of McKenzie, causing local and county officials, along with Emergency Management Agency and National Guard personnel to evacuate approximately 100 residents from their homes for almost two hours.

Dwayne Gomillion, a resident of County Rd. 45 just north of town, was preparing his boat and fishing gear for a weekend trip to the river when police officials came and told him he would have to leave his home because the train carrying hazardous materials had overturned about

two and a half miles up the track north of his property.

E-911 received the call at 12:03 p.m., and officials from the Butler County Sheriff's Office, McKenzie Fire Department, Georgiana P.D., Greenville Fire Department,

Greenville P.D., Alabama National Guard, and McKenzie Public Works quickly responded.

The area roads were blocked-off for approximately a one-mile radius of the derailment, and

all the area residents were asked to temporarily leave their homes while officials from A & F and the emergency units assessed the situation.

After about two hours, the residents were allowed to return to their homes and the roads were reopened.

The wreckage was located about one and a half miles north of Gomillion's pastures, accessible only by walking the tracks through the heavily wooded area to the location where 7 of 9 railcars had left the tracks and overturned, sliding down a bank until resting on some trees.

The overturned containers were marked as containing Granular Sodium Hydroxide, and Caustic Soda, which are both toxic hazards if inhaled or contacted by the skin in any concentrations. A third container was marked as containing Molten Phenol, which is combustible, and can cause explosive reactions if burning.

The cause of the derailment was still under investigation, according to Allen Brown, director of corporate development for Pioneer Rail Corp.

Pioneer is a publicly-owned holding company located in Peoria, Illinois, and manages 15 railroads in ninedifferent states.

Brown stated that all of the manufacturers and shippers were contacted, and responded to assist in the scene cleanup, which took most of the weekend to accomplish.

Brown added that his company was "very appreciative of the rapid and professional manner in which the emergency personnel responded and evacuated the area."

The rail line involved connects the CSX line in the Georgiana train yard to Geneva, Alabama.

This particular train was enroute to Andalusia.

Brown was unsure at press time when the tracks would be fully restored.