Train derails in McDonough County

Steven Barnum, News Editor

Fire departments in Fulton County and McDonough County respond- ed to a train derailment near Table Grove, Ill.

Several cars on a BNSF train left the track shortly before

5 p.m. Sunday evening. The tanker cars were carrying isopropyl alcohol, which is a flammable chemical. Fortunately, the chemical did not leak into the environment. Edgar Rodriguez is the Di- rector of the McDonough County Emergency Services and Disaster Agency,

and he says that the situation could have been a lot more dangerous.

“Some of the tracks go through our community,” Rodriguez said, “but luckily, this happened in a rural and unpopulated area. None of the tankers burst and there were no injuries to the crew or the public.”

As part of his job description, Rodriguez would be involved in protecting the public in situations of natural disasters, like tornadoes and blizzards that recently hit McDonough County. Additionally, Rodriguez said that his agency would also assist

in threatening situations to the area, like if there was an active shooter.

When it comes to derailments, they do not occur very often in McDonough County, according to Rodriguez.

He recalls an incident near Galesburg, Ill. a few years ago, but says that this is the first major train incident he has seen in the area since taking the job.

Garrett Savage also responded to the incident. Savage is the fire chief of the New Salem Fire Department, he was able to get to the scene quickly despite the inclement weather from Saturday’s snowfall.

“We had no issue getting to the scene,” Savage said, “because it was right along the highway and the roads were cleaned off by then.”

Savage’s team arrived to the tracks within six to eight minutes after receiving the call, and they were prepared to evacuate the area if necessary.

“We had every road blocked that could lead to that area, whether it be a country road or highway. There were only two houses that were within the evacuation area, but we told them there wasn’t any need to evacuate at that time,” Savage said.

Savage was not completely aware of what had exactly occurred regarding how many cars left the track and how serious the situation was until he arrived to the scene. He says that they prepared for a much-worse scenario.

U.S. Route 136 and its connecting roads were closed off so that cleanup crews and investigators could work on the scene. The county redirected traffic into detours, but Rodriguez says they were planning on reopening all roads within the next day of the incident.

“The railroad company asked us to give them 48 hours and so far they’ve been doing a great job,” Rodriguez said. “We’re heading in a good direction to repair the tracks and reopen the roads.”

BNSF is still searching for the factors behind the cars leaving the track, and Rodriguez says that they will release more information when the investigation is complete. At this point, the incident could have been a combination between the snowfall and condition of the tracks.

Isopropyl alcohol is a sol- vent, which is used as an ingredient in products rang- ing from wet wipes to hand sanitizer. When combined with enough magnesium, isopropyl alcohol can create explosions, showing that the derailment could have been a major disaster.