Derailed Illinois Oil Train That Burst Into Flames Had Safer Tank Cars

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The rail cars that split open and burst into flames during a western Illinois oil train derailment continued to burn Friday, a day after the derailment in a rural area south of the city of Galena.

Twenty-one of the train's 105 cars derailed in an area where the Galena River meets the Mississippi. BNSF Railway said a resulting fire spread to five rail cars. The train had 103 cars loaded with crude oil from the Northern Plains' Bakken region, along with two buffer cars loaded with sand, according to company spokesman Andy Williams. Firefighters could only access the derailment site by a bike path, said Galena Assistant Fire Chief Bob Conley.

No injuries were reported and the cause of the derailment hasn't been determined.

BNSF Railway said the train was designed during safety upgrades voluntarily adopted by the industry four years ago in hopes of keeping cars from rupturing during derailments. The accident was the latest in a series of failures for the safer tank-car model that has led some people calling for even tougher requirements.

"It certainly begs that question when ... those standards failed to prevent leakage and explosions that threaten human safety and environmental contamination," said Steve Barg, director of the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation, which owns a nature preserve several hundred yards from the derailment site.

Emergency personnel described the area as "stable" on Friday. The Federal Railroad Administration was investigating.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it was monitoring the air, taking water samples and setting up booms to keep leaking oil from reaching nearby waterways.


— The Associated Press