Railway Suspects Crime in Derailment

Tillie Fong of the Rocky Mountain News reports that the train derailment in Westminster is now considered a crime.

After writing a first, second, and third story about the derailment, I now defer to the Rocky. Here is the key new information:

Officials believe that the tree trunk was deliberately placed on the tracks two hours before the train derailed, about 8:30 p.m. A resident had called Westminster police, warning about the stump in the tracks in the 9000 block of Pierce St.

“An officer removed the tree stump,” said Heather Wood, spokeswoman for Westminster police. “He moved it to the side of the railroad track and rolled it off the embankment. We didn’t get any calls that the stump was back up.”

However, at 10:36 p.m. Monday, a local shipping train, carrying lumber, paper, malt and sugar, ran into the same tree stump that was back on the tracks in the same area.

What’s interesting about this is that the Westminster Police (or at least some officers) knew immediately that the derailment was a crime, yet they did not release this information until Tuesday afternoon or evening. (I posted my interview with Steve Forsberg at about 2:00 p.m., just after talking with him, and Fong’s story that quotes Forsberg about the crime is marked 10:33 p.m.) Perhaps the delay was caused by slow processing of information, or perhaps police thought that the perpetrator(s) would be more likely to reveal themselves without a pronounced criminal investigation. The delay of information might also have delayed public involvement in finding the perpetrator(s).

Did the Westminster Police contact the railway police? I wonder whether somebody was patrolling the tracks in the area, especially before the next scheduled train.

Fong also reveals a couple of interesting details: the injured brakeman “was released Tuesday,” and crews are working to “replace 702 feet of track.”

Fong adds, “Anyone with information about the tree stump or who placed it on the tracks should contact Burlington Northern Santa Fe police at 1-800-832-5452. Tipsters can also call CrimeStoppers at 720-913-STOP.”

I sent Forsberg a few follow-up questions, the answers to which I’ll post when I get them:

1. Did Westminster Police contact railway police about the stump when it was first removed from the tracks, prior to the 10:36 p.m. collision?

2. Was anyone patrolling the tracks in that area prior to the train derailment?

3. Do you have the estimates for the amount of fuel leaked or the cost of damages at this time?

4. We discussed this issue a little, but I’d like to know how many times per year trains carrying hazardous materials of different sorts travel the track on which the derailment occurred.

12:37 p.m. Update, June 11

I tried to post the above post late June 10, but Blogger was having problems. Following is Steve Forsberg’s reply to my questions:

“You should put the first two questions to the Westminster PD as I don’t have any information on that. I do know our people have praised Police efforts to support BNSF.

“Spilled fuel estimates have been lowered to 200-300 gallons and 100 gallons of lube oil. I don’t know how many haz mat shipments move on that route. It would be a low number as there are only 6 or 7 trains a day that use that track.”

Also, the Rocky Mountain News now reports that “Burlington Northern Santa Fe repaired and reopened the track at the site of Monday night’s derailment by 10 this morning…”