Freight cars hauling sand derail in southwestern Pennsylvania; minor injuries reported

Associated Press

Several freight cars hauling sand derailed Thursday morning in a southwestern Pennsylvania town, some toppling over just feet away from homes and closing nearby roads.

"We heard the train coming through like always, then we heard a big boom," said Georgia Eans, who said a car tipped over less than 10 feet from her home. "We all jumped and ran and there it was, laying in our yard."

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Uniontown police Lt. Tom Kolencik said there were minor injuries reported in the derailment, which occurred at about 7:40 a.m., but no details would be released until later in the day. Only an engineer and conductor were aboard the train, police said.

Seven sand-filled cars could be seen toppled over at the scene, though several more may have left the tracks but remained upright, according to emergency officials.

Officials with Carload Express Inc., of Oakmont, confirmed some cars on one of their Southwestern Pennsylvania Railroad trains derailed. A company official who answered the phone but refused to give his name told The Associated Press the train had 40 cars.

It wasn't immediately clear what caused the derailment. The railroad had crews and investigators at the scene.

Fire Chief Dane Griffith said trains carrying hazardous materials use the same tracks and that residents were "very fortunate" this train was hauling sand.

The cleanup was expected to take hours. Vacuum trucks were waiting to empty each of the cars that tipped over before they can be pulled upright onto the tracks and moved away. Several utility poles that were sheared off along the tracks must also be repaired before train traffic returns to normal.

"We got lucky, that it just fell, and didn't slide," Eans said, referring to the two cars that came to rest closest to her home. "Somebody was watching over us."

Uniontown is about 40 miles south of Pittsburgh.