What people on the scene are calling a “scene from hell” is taking place over Tempe Town Lake in Tempe, Arizona where a Union Pacific train has derailed, catching on fire on a bridge over the lake.
Camille Kimball, who was riding her bike under the bridge right before it collapsed, spoke to CNN affiliate KTVK/KPHO when describing the scene, “I turned around to look and got the fright of my life,” she told the television station. “Now there’s fire pouring into the lake from the middle of the bridge. … It’ looks like a scene from hell, truly. A scene from hell. … The flames are intense and the sky is filled with black smoke.”
The potentially deadly derailment took place at 6:15 a.m. local time, the cause at the moment unknown. What is known is that the derailment caused a massive fire which then caused a portion of the bridge to collapse, sending three tankers to the ground underneath the bridge. It is also reported that ten of the cars had derailed.
Making matters worse is the fact that the three containers held hazardous materials. According to Union Pacific spokesman Tim McMahan, the train was traveling from Tuscon to Phoenix and two of the three cars that fell through the bridge were carrying cyclohexanone. The third car that fell through contained an unnamed rubber material. Cyclohexanone is a colorless oily liquid that is both an irritant and flammable.
According to McMahan, “None are reported leaking, and no tank cars were involved in the fire.” The Union Pacific had this to say in their statement, “The south side of the bridge collapsed and rail cars fell into an empty park below. Three tank cars were on the ground under the bridge. Two contained cyclohexanone; one contained a rubber material. None are reported leaking, and no tank cars were involved in the fire.”
Thankfully, there have been no reports of injuries to any of the train’s crew though there is a report of smoke inhalation to an unidentified person. Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir tweeted out, “No injuries known at this time but the scene is very dangerous. Stay out of Tempe Town Lake and away from the area.”
Though there are no reports of leakage from the three train cars, the National Institutes of Health says cyclohexanone is flammable and it is used primarily in the production of nylon. It can be harmful if inhaled.
The large fire can, in part, be attributed to some of the rail cars carrying lumber. Those could be seen burning brightly, sending plumes of smoke into the blue sky. As for the collapsed portion of the bridge, investigators with the Federal Railroad Administration are on their way to look into the incident. Bridges, according to the Union Pacific website, are visually inspected every 30 days and their annual inspection came on July 9th.
The area around Tempe Town Lake is a popular recreation spot for joggers, cyclists, and boating and it is close in proximity to Arizona State University. Police have closed off the area until further notice.