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Derailed train spills diesel after hitting rocks, one ‘the size of a VW,’ Oregon cops say

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A freight train bound for Pasco, Washington, derailed in rural Oregon on Monday, spilling roughly 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel, according to state environmental authorities.

The BNSF train left the rails around 2:30 a.m. near Madras, north of Trout Creek, a tributary of the Deschutes River, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said in a news release.

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said two large boulders derailed the train, which was headed north from Bakersfield, California, KVEW reports.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joe Aldred said he found a broken track when he responded to the reported crash, with crew members telling him that the train struck “two huge rocks in the track” — including one “the size of a VW” — that “launched them in the air a bit,” KTVZ reported.

No one was hurt in the derailment, which involved a train of 11 loaded cars and 64 empty cars, according to KVEW. Five engines with diesel fuel tanks derailed in the crash, along with one railcar — but authorities said only one engine fuel tank was punctured.

State authorities said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and BNSF Railway also responded to help handle the diesel spill, explaining that “4,000 gallons of diesel from the fuel tank of one engine have released to the ground.”

The derailment was a mile from the Bureau of Land Management’s Trout Creek Campground on the Deschutes River, the news release said.

Environmental authorities said the diesel hadn’t reached waterways, but first responders are using an “absorbent boom” to keep the spilled fuel from reaching the water.

State authorities said the train was hauling “mixed cargo,” while KTVZ reported that the railcar that derailed was holding vehicles.

Melonas said the rocks involved in the crash had fallen from a nearby 100-foot cliff, causing the engines and railcar to hop off the tracks but stay upright, according to KTVZ.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.
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