Heitkamp: ‘Lucky’ no one hurt in new ND train derailment

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) said Friday that it was “lucky” no one was hurt in a pair of new freight train derailments near Casselton, N.D., on Thursday night. 

Two empty trains that would normally be used to carry flammable crude oil derailed on Thursday night near Casselton, according to a report from the Bismarck Tribune

The trains were operated by freight company BNSF Railway, which was also operating a train that was involved in a December 2013 derailment in Casselton that resulted in 400,000 gallons of oil being spilled near the town.

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Heitkamp said Friday that it was fortunate that similar damage was not sustained in Thursday evening’s accidents. 

“Last night we were lucky. We were lucky the trains that derailed didn’t hurt anyone and that the crude oil train was empty,” she said in a statement. 

“But we can’t rely on luck,” Heitkamp continued. “We saw what happened in Casselton almost a year ago and yesterday’s incident is disappointing. There have now been five derailments along the rail lines near Casselton in nine years. We need to make sure everyone is doing everything possible to prevent future derailments.” 

Heitkamp has pressed for more stringent regulations of the freight rail and crude oil industries since the 2013 incident. 

She touted her work on the issue over the course of 2014, even as she pledged to more in the wake of the latest freight rail accidents in her home state. 

“Since last year’s disaster, new federal regulations have been drafted and BNSF has taken some needed and unprecedented steps to improve inspections and safety — but all of us must continue to constantly look to do more,” she said. “Immediately after the derailment happened yesterday, BNSF’s Executive Chairman Matt Rose reached out to me and his office has been keeping me apprised of any developments. The company is currently reviewing the area to determine what happened and we should wait for its findings before speculating on the cause.”