Ethanol and Diesel Leaks Confirmed at Charles City Train Derailment

CHARLES CITY, IA – Monday night was an eventful night for rescue crews in Charles City. They had a flood threat, but there were plenty of other issues caused by the river itself.

Crews were called late last night to a train derailment on the east side of Floyd County. They had to think fast and act quickly to save two workers who were trapped in the train.

It was something Charles City Fire and Rescue couldn’t have trained for.

“This was a very unusual situation,” explains Fire Chief Eric Whipple.

A Canadian Pacific train  was heading east and derailed. And the Little Cedar River was to blame.

“It had washed out some of the tracks where or at least the bed underneath the tracks and that’s what we believe caused the derailment,” says Chief Whipple.

There were two workers in one of the locomotives and crews had to try to get to them as quickly as possible.

“We had to use 4-wheel drive vehicles, gators and rangers to get personnel and equipment to the site of the accident,” he explains.

That’s because the site was about a half a mile away from the nearest road.

“Having the locomotive and the personnel who were in the locomotive in the water at some point and not being able to just get to them and get to the locomotive we had to figure out away to get through the water.”

Around 1:30 on Tuesday morning, their rescue efforts were successful

“Other than being a little wet and cold it was a cold night especially if you were wet but they were not injured thankfully and we were glad about that,” concludes Chief Whipple.

A representative from Canadian Pacific said they have crews out there now working on the cleanup. The train was carrying ethanol. The DNR confirms that ethanol and diesel leaks were confirmed in the Little Cedar River.

Canadian Pacific plans to remove the leaking car Tuesday evening. The DNR will continue to monitor the situation and clean up and consider any enforcement action. The DNR is checking for potential environmental concerns.

Unlike petroleum products ethanol does not float and immediately mixes with the water making recovery impossible.

Luckily no one was injured and the rescue was a success.

But that wasn’t the only rescue situation crews were called to yesterday.

Crews were also called yesterday to look for two men who were on flotation devices on the Cedar River, and they were believed to be in danger.

On Monday, crews searched the river for hours before they called off the search because of heavy rains and the darkness.

Nashua Fire and Rescue assisted in the search efforts.

Local kayaker Brad Lunning Jr. says in situations where the river level is as high as it was, Getting on the water is not a good idea.

“Kayak or white water we can get into them eddies and take a break or rest when it really high the whole rivers moving all one direction so there’s no safe place to exit the river, you’re going where the river wants,” he explains.

Between the threat of the river flooding, the train derailment and this situation, crews here have been working almost all night.

While the Cedar River levels are falling, it’s still too high to go out on, at this point.

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