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‘Sun kink’ cause of June train crash, says BNSF

‘Sun kink’ cause of June train crash, says BNSF

The train derailment in Denair in June 2 was caused by sun kink according to a railroad report.


POSTED August 13, 2013 10:20 p.m.

Two months after a sleepy Sunday afternoon in Denair was disrupted when multiple freight train cars derailed, crashing into a storage company and creating a giant pile of twisted metal in the middle of the town, the cause of the accident has been determined.

Thermal misalignment from extreme temperatures was the cause of the non-injury accident, according to Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway spokesperson Lena Kent. Thermal misalignment — also called sun kink or track buckle — happens when a rise in temperature heats the steel rail, causing it to expand and eventually buckle.

The observed high temperature on the day of the crash was 96 degrees, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Although many eye-witnesses to the crash said the freight train was going faster than normal and "barreling through" town that day, Kent said the investigation found the train was traveling within normal speeds.

The June 2 train derailment destroyed three storage units and damaged five others at Denair Self Storage, located on Merced Avenue behind the Amtrak station.

Denair Self Storage manager Stacy Trueblood said the company plans to rebuild and is just "waiting for all the pieces to be put in place" with the insurance companies.

Sun kink has been known to cause other rail accidents, including the July 4, 2012, fatal rail accident in northern Illinois. The derailment of the fully loaded train hauling more than 19,000 tons of coal from a Chicago suburb to Pleasant Prairie, Wis., sent 32 of the train's 137 freight cars off the track. Nearly all of them piled up in a spectacular mound directly on top of the overpass, causing it to collapse.

Attorney Burton Lindner and his wife, Zorine, a retired high school guidance counselor, were traveling under the bridge at the time and were killed.

The Federal Rail Administration accident report said temperatures of 103 degrees likely heated the track and caused it to buckle a few feet before the bridge. A video recorded from the lead locomotive showed the track had shifted, the report said.

The report also noted that Union Pacific exceeded federal requirements for track inspection in that area.

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