Westminster Train Derailment Under Criminal Investigation

by Ari Armstrong, 3:00 a.m., June 10, 2008
All photographs and audio files may be reproduced with attribution to FreeColorado.com. High-resolution photos and audio files are linked below. Read the morning update.

A “tree stump or some type of large tree branch” caused a Burlington Northern train to derail late June 9 in Westminster, leading to a criminal investigation, Investigator Trevor Materasso of the Westminster Police Department said. Investigators did not know whether the train, headed north near 92nd and Wadsworth, derailed by accident or crime.

Three people were aboard the train, and one was transported for minor injuries, Materasso said. The train, which derailed at about 10:36 p.m., carried “all non-hazardous material.” While some residents in the area were contacted, none was evacuated. As of midnight, Westminster firemen were “working on plugging” a “very small leak” in a diesel tank on the front engine. The derailment involved 37 cars and four locomotives, Materasso said.

A man living across Wadsworth said, “I heard like thunder. I heard the train engine, the whistle, and then not a minute later I heard all this big grinding and thunder noise. I looked out my window and saw sparks coming from the train from the lead engine, and then it just stopped.”

Materasso said it’s “unknown how long the tracks are going to be shut down.” The rail appeared to be twisted off of the bed near several derailed cars. Materasso urged drivers to avoid that section of Wadsworth if possible during the cleanup. [All the derailed cars are south of the light at Independence, the 96th block, and Wadsworth Parkway.]

Anyone with relevant information can call the Westminster Police Department at (303) 430 – 2400 x5, Materasso said.

Shortly after midnight, police handcuffed at least one of three men on the train track just north of the wrecked engine. Materasso said that field interviews of people in the area are standard.

Photographs and Linked Files

Interview with Witness

Interview with Investigator Trevor Materasso

First Video

Second Video

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Thanks to my wife Jennifer, who took all of the photographs except for the first one.