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Evacuees returned to homes, some road blocks cleared

By Arkansas Online

This article was originally published August 17, 2014 at 6:10 a.m. Updated August 17, 2014 at 12:47 p.m.


Union Pacific train collision.


Arkansas State Police have removed almost all road blocks around Hoxie, with the exception of two, and most of the people evacuated earlier today have been able to return home.

Road blocks will remain at U.S. 67 south of U.S. 63 and U.S. 67 at the intersection with U.S. 230 as crews attempt to remove the wreckage of the collision.

Part of Hoxie in Lawrence County was evacuated after the two trains collided in the area overnight, killing two people, authorities said.

Jonesboro Police and Fire said in a statement that it happened shortly after 2:30 a.m. on tracks near U.S. 67 between Hoxie and Minturn.

Arkansas State Police said the evacuation of part of south Hoxie was "precautionary" because the two Union Pacific trains were carrying "toxic cargo" and one engine caught on fire. That blaze "was reported still burning at daybreak, however it is not believed to be threatening any of the toxic cargo," police noted.

Arkansas Department of Emergency Management spokesman Kendell Snyder said crews did an initial attack on the fire, and they were told the car on fire contained an alcoholic beverage, which along with the diesel fuel from the train was feeding the flames.

Snyder said he has not been briefed on what the toxic substance is.

The two people who died and the two injured were all crew members of the trains, State Police said.

Officials at one point were going door-to-door to evacuate the south end of Hoxie, a statement from Jonesboro police and fire dispatch said, noting residents were being directed to the Walnut Ridge Community Center.

Snyder said about 100 people were at the community center for a short time before being returned to their homes. The Free Street Church of Christ in Walnut Ridge also acted as a shelter for a short time. Around 500 people live in the mile and a half evacuation area, Snyder said.

An investigation of the cause of the collision will be headed up by representatives from Union Pacific who are at the scene of the crash, Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said.

"It's railroad property," Sadler said. "The mission of State Police right now is just to assist local authorities in keeping the roads blocked."

Hoxie sits just south of Walnut Ridge, about 23 miles northwest of Jonesboro.

Information for this story was contributed by Ashley Nerbovig of Arkansas Online.

Read more about this story in Monday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


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Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 total comments

Nodmcm says... August 17, 2014 at 12:35 p.m.

If those trains that had a head-on collision, which should never occur on a well-run railroad, and had been carrying 100 tanker cars of North Dakota crude oil, there might have been a lot of fatalities. Just think if a head-on collision as described in this report occurred in southwest Little Rock, where the same railroad companies' tracks run. Or in Benton, or Jacksonville, or Malvern, or any of the other numerous towns along the route. In today's modern age, I wish the railroad companies could invent technology to make head-on train collisions a thing of the past.

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Chatcat572 says... August 17, 2014 at 1:08 p.m.

When trains carry hazardous materials, they have to have a manifest of all that's on those trains. They have to have paperwork listing all contents, including hazardous materials. Law Enforcement perhaps didn't tell the Reporter what the hazardous materials were, but I'm positive they know....they just don't want the public to know!!

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FreeSpiritMan says... August 17, 2014 at 3:18 p.m.

Nodmcm ...... the technology exist, they just don't want to spen the money, as usual for a large corporation.

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FreeSpiritMan says... August 17, 2014 at 3:20 p.m.

If thousands of flighs per day can be managed in air space, are you telling me two trains on the same trach heading towards each other can not be managed?

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RaylanGivens says... August 17, 2014 at 6:04 p.m.

If a train carrying Obama west from DC at 70 MPH and a train carrying Pelosi east from San Francisco at 60 MPH both leaving at 6AM on a collision course, at what time do they collide and set off the largest celebration in the history of the US?

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Flavius says... August 17, 2014 at 6:12 p.m.

Glad it wasn't the Amtrak Texas Eagle involved. The only technology that would prevent this type of collision would be if there were two sets of tracks, dedicated in each direction. Technology eventually fails.

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RBBrittain says... August 18, 2014 at 5:54 a.m.

@Flavius: I thought that's why UP still operates both the old MoPac & Cotton Belt routes across Arkansas separately: Thru freight trains generally go north on one route, south on the other. (Don't remember which is which.) Ironically, one of the required exceptions to that is Amtrak; otherwise that would lead to, say, passengers getting on at Walnut Ridge (the current NE AR stop on MoPac) on the way back not being able to get off any closer than Jonesboro or Paragould (on Cotton Belt). Also, rail traffic beginning or ending on either route is probably exempt due to limited turnaround facilities; that likely includes one of the two trains here.

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DontDrinkDatKoolAid says... August 18, 2014 at 6:23 a.m.

HalALouyah, your answer .... It would be about time for a celebration type of time.

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