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Train carrying munitions derails east of Elko; I-80 reopened

Posted at 12:04 PM, Jun 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-20 00:14:29-04

ELKO, Nev. — More than a dozen cars of a Union Pacific train derailed east of the town of Wells, Nevada, Wednesday morning.

The accident caused a section of Interstate 80 to close for several hours because of the volatile nature of some of the train’s cargo.

According to Elko County Sheriff Aitor Narvaiza, some cars of the train were carrying military grade munitions and chemicals.

“According to the manifest, there was ammunition, grenades, explosives,” Narvaiza said.  “We were pretty lucky to dodge a bullet today.”

After members of the Elko County SWAT team investigated the explosives, it was determined they were not in the cars that derailed.

“If that stuff would have breached, we would have had explosives on the ground,” Narvaiza said.  “If any of those tankers

Photo courtesy Nevada Highway Patrol

would have ruptured, it would have been pretty ugly for anybody on the ground and in the city of Wells.”

Narvaiza said officials with the U.S. Department of Defense arrived on scene to oversee the transport of the items that did not derail to a secure location.

The sheriff said aluminum oxide powder leaked from some of the cars, but it is a non-hazardous skin irritant that can be washed off.

Officials with Union Pacific said the train was headed west from North Platte, Neb. to Roseville, Calif.

A tween from Nevada Emergency Management indicated nine flat cars, two tankers and three box cars derailed.

Investigators with Union Pacific are working to determine the cause of the accident.

Sheriff Narvaiza was informed the NTSB will not be on site to investigate.

No injuries were reported.

It is unclear when the wreckage will be cleared and the tracks repaired.

Eastbound I-80 was closed at mile marker 352 and westbound was closed at mile marker 360, and drivers were detoured onto US 93. The road has since reopened.

Video posted by Michael Lyday on Twitter shows the aftermath of the derailment.

Wells is a small town located between Elko and the Nevada-Utah border.