In the News
KUOW: Officials demand answers after apparent sabotage of oil train
By John Ryan
Some legislators are calling for action in the wake of a federal report on the apparent sabotage of an oil train north of Bellingham last year.
That train derailed and caught fire after it split apart, then slammed into itself. A Federal Railroad Administration investigation published last week found that the train’s brakes and couplers had apparently been tampered with.
Democratic Congresswoman Suzan DelBene says she’s demanding answers from BNSF Railway.
“This impacts all of our communities when there're incidents with a derailment like we saw and the resulting fire,” DelBene said. “This is a safety issue for our community.”
DelBene says members of the Washington congressional delegation will meet with BNSF officials next week to find out how BNSF, the nation’s largest railway company, is going to make its tracks and trains safer.
The Federal Railroad Administration investigation found that BNSF had left a train carrying 3 million gallons of crude oil unattended on tracks outside the town of Custer for three hours, and that the company never told its crews of the dozens of times tracks in the area had been sabotaged in 2020. The investigation also found that two engineers of the ill-fated train failed to check its brakes the morning it derailed.
The federal report echoes the findings of a KUOW investigation published in June.
“We hope that BNSF takes the report seriously,” a spokesperson for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in an email. “Obviously this [is] important for the safety and health of communities along the railways as well as for protecting the natural environment along the train’s route,” spokesperson Tara Lee wrote.
BNSF Railway, which is a financial supporter of KUOW, did not respond to an interview request for this story.
DelBene said she expects more answers “soon,” once the FBI completes its criminal investigation of the crash and fire.