Coal Train Derailment Near Cloquet Under Investigation; BNSF Responds to Clean Up

Updated: February 19, 2019 12:14 PM

The BNSF Railway says clean-up along the St. Louis River near Cloquet continued for the second day, after a 121-car train loaded with coal derailed with a reported forty rail cars around 11:30 Saturday morning. No injuries were reported.

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Amy McBeth, BNSF Director of Public Affairs, says some of the cars were on their side near or partially in the St. Louis River, with coal on top of the ice. 

"It was just chaos. Train cars in the river laying on shore. There's coal, dust, probably 100 feet or so out into the ice. There's still trucks from the rail cars up on the tracks," Anthony Gist, a Cloquet resident, said. “There were some BNSF employees in their vehicles and it looked like they walked out on the ice and kind of surveyed the damage already."

McBeth said BNSF crews are on scene clearing the cars and repairing the track. McBeth said it's estimated the track will be back in service late Sunday night.  WDIO News reached out to McBeth again regarding the status of the track and she said they don't have "any new information" about whether the track is back in service or not. 

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency was on site Saturday. A spokesperson for the the MPCA said the derailment was on the land of the Fond du Lac Reservation. 

"Our emergency response team knows about the incident and we are available if the tribe wants our assistance," Lucie Amundsen, a public information officer for the MPCA, said. "The incident happened on tribal land so the tribe is in control of the situation."

A spokesperson from the reservation told WDIO News that an official statement will be released once approved by the Reservation Business Committee.

McBeth also said BNSF crews are preparing a plan to remove the spilled coal and the few remaining derailed cars. 

"I know the railroad followed protocal and called into a national agency about spills," Amundsen said. 

"They're going to have to do a pretty good cleanup effort, I don't know what the coal is going to do to the river," Gist said. 

Gist also said he saw the St. Louis Rescue Squad air boat Sunday taking drone footage of the scene for the Fond du Lac Reservation.

As of mid-day Sunday, McBeth said the cause is still under investigation. 



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