This is the moment a police helicopter flies over a derailed train that caught fire in New Mexico.
The incident took place on a railroad north of the village of Mesita in Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico on June 14.
The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office shared a video from their aviation unit on the scene on social media on June 15, noting that no injuries were reported but “much of the cargo appeared damaged.”
According to a spokesperson for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, a locomotive and several carriages derailed.
Most of the cargo was badly damaged, but the train was not carrying any hazardous materials, so there were no environmental concerns.
Nevertheless, due to heavy smoke coming from the train, officials ordered the evacuation of residents in the village of Mesita. The families were able to return to their homes the next day.
After the incident, both sides of the rail track remained blocked and services were suspended.
No one was reported as injured in the accident and the cause of the derailment is under investigation.
In 2020, there were 1,899 highway-rail incidents in the United States, according to Operation Lifesaver, a national, nonprofit rail safety awareness organization. There has been an 82 percent decrease in these incidents since 1972, when average annual railway collisions totaled about 12,000.
Highway-rail grade crossing collisions, along with pedestrians trespassing on tracks, account for over 95 percent of all railroad fatalities, according to Operation Lifesaver.
In New Mexico alone, there were 57 total railroad accidents in 2020, resulting in four fatalities and 38 nonfatal casualties, according to the Federal Railroad Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Five of these incidents led to reportable damages over $100,000, two led to damages over $500,000 and two led to damages over $1 million.
Joanne Beer, the New Mexico coordinator of Operation Lifesaver, said there are two main causes of train derailment: a defect in the track, or objects obstructing the track that shouldn’t be there. Beer said railway companies should take responsibility for track maintenance to promote safety.
“It’s in their own best interest to keep their equipment and employees safe,” Beer said. “So, they do a lot of track maintenance and checking the tracks frequently out here.”
Maintenance crews should check for cracks and breaks in the track, as well as foreign objects and natural obstacles, Beer said. Rock slides, tree branches, and water can all cause railway instability.
(Edited by Katie Taranto and Kristen Butler)
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