UP to NTSB: Flash flood warning was issued after 2019 fiery derailment

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief

The NTSB has concluded that flooding was the primary cause of a Union Pacific derailment in 2019.

The Class 1 carrier, however, is blaming those behind the maintenance of Echo Lake, which overflowed onto the tracks.

After several days of heavy rain the NTSB said in a report the tracks were weakened so badly they could not handle the weight of the train that derailed. The agency also pointed blame at those whose job it was to keep an eye on the lake, and stated deferred maintenance of the emergency and primary spillways at Echo Lake also caused the flooding. The absence of dynamic weather reporting criteria at Union Pacific Railroad was another contributing factor noted in the NTSB report.

Union Pacific said a flash flood warning was issued after the derailment occurred, and claimed if Echo Lake were properly being maintained water would have never streamed over the tracks.

The Union Pacific derailment on April 24, 2019, was a serious one. The train was carrying denatured ethanol, which is a flammable mixture of alcohol and natural gas. The train reached an S curve and 26 cars derailed. The accident caused a fire, which damaged cars and destroyed a stable. The NTSB report noted crew members said water was pooling over the tracks at the time of the derailment, and that they did not get any warnings from Union Pacific dispatchers about the conditions.

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