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At 10:08 AM on June 24 two trains collided head-on two miles east of Goodwell, Oklahoma. The collision caused a huge diesel fuel fire that has finally been contained by fire crews.
The eastbound train was carrying a mixture of goods from Los Angeles to Chicago, whereas the westbound train was taking a shipment of cars and trucks from Kansas City to Los Angeles. Each train had one conductor and one engineer, and of the two crews, only one man survived.
The westbound train operator, Juan Zurita, jumped from the train before the crash occurred and suffered only minor injuries. According to Raquel Espinoza, the spokeswoman for the Union Pacific Railroad Zurita was “shaken up about the situation, and we are working to make sure that he receives the care that he needs. We’re doing everything we can to find the rest of the crew.”
The conductor of the other train, Brian L. Stone, 50, from Dalhart, Texas died along with the two engineers, Dan Hall and John Hall. The Hall engineers are unrelated. According to the National Transportation Safety Board there was “no survivable space” left on the trains.
Betsy Randolph, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper, was surprised when remains were found because of the high temperatures of the diesel fire. The fire was so intense that one firefighter was taken to the hospital for heat-related injuries and several others were treated on site for the same thing.
Currently federal investigators are looking into why one of the trains did not pull into a side track when the other train approached the main line. Mark Rosekind of the National Transportation Safety Board stated, “one train had the right of way. We’re still getting the data to figure out what was scheduled to happen… who was supposed to be where and when.”
Gary Mathews, a truck driver, witnessed the train accident. He told reporters, “I was thinking, ‘I’m going to see a train crash unless somebody does something.’” Mathews also claimed that neither train signaled the other with lights or sounds. Mathews told officials that the westbound train, with conductor Juan Zurita, slowed down before the train but the eastbound train did not. The crash scared Mathews so badly he refused to stop until he reached his destination, 350 miles later.
According to investigators the track and signaling devices appeared to be in working order. The National Transportation Safety Board will also look into whether or not one of the crew was on his cell phone or if one of the crews had not been well-rested.