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TRAINS collide, three missing near Goodwell

June 24, 2012

Fire crews battle a fire at the scene of a train collision 2 miles east of Goodwell on June 24, 2012. (Courtesy photo/Karen Eggers)

Two cargo trains collided just east of Goodwell, Okla. about 10:08 a.m. on Sunday.

"The eastbound train was coming from Los Angeles on its way to Chicago, the westbound train was on its way to Los Angeles from Kansas City," said Tom Lange, a spokesman for Union Pacific Railroad. "Obviously there's an investigation under way. We don't know what caused the incident."

Union Pacific regional spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza said a two-person crew was aboard each train, and officials were unable to account for two engineers and a conductor.

"Our first priority is to account for them," Lange said.

Lange said they hope to recover the trains' data recorders to find out exactly what happened.

Fire crews from Guymon, Texas County, Hooker and Yarbrough were on scene well into the night.

Lange said one car had resin in it, which is considered hazardous but it is not poisonous.

"That car did not derail," he said.

The Mason Trailer Park near Goodwell was evacuated.

Gary Mathews was driving down Highway 54 when the trains collided, and witnessed the accident.

"(I) saw trains coming toward each other for about 3 miles. Heard the eastbound train blowing the horn," Mathews said. "The trains hit head-on and then derailed. The westbound train was hauling cars. The westbound train laid over on it's side as I passed. I did not see any operators inside the trains. I was 50 yards from the train when it collided.

"A wall of heat hit my windshield and came through it from the explosion of fuel in the engines. The eastbound train had three engines on it. The westbound train had two. The westbound train was moving very slow before the collision."

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph said Highway 54 was closed from Guymon to Texhoma.

"We're routing U.S. 54 at Guymon to U.S. 64 going west, and then south on Highway 95 south to Texhoma," Randoph said. "We are hoping to go ahead open the eastbound lanes."

As of press time, highway crews were placing cones to route traffic and reopen the highway.

The OHP, Texas County Sheriff's Department, Union Pacific and the Guymon Fire Department established a unified command center.

Red Cross volunteers and staff from Woodward and Guymon were providing emergency assistance to approximately 50 first responders in Goodwell, following a train wreck. There are currently no sheltering needs, however, our teams will reassess if winds shift and fire affects nearby communities.Our teams are coordinating with local emergency management, Union Pacific officials and Southern Baptists who are on scene.

One firefighter was transported by Goodwell EMS to the Guymon hospital with symptoms of heat stroke as the high temperature reached 105 degrees.

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