Rail union says ‘sabotage’ caused 2020 oil train derailment in Washington


A rail union representative has blamed an oil car disaster that took place last year in Washington state on “sabotage.”

Last year, two tanker cars lost their hold on one another, drifted apart and caused a crash that derailed 10 cars, with three cars bursting into flames. A detachment would normally trigger an emergency brake, forcing them to stop.

KUOW reports that Korey McDaniel, a member of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART), told railway investigators that the Dec. 22 crash last year was “without a doubt” caused by sabotage.

“We know from the FBI investigation, from how trains operate, how trains work, how the couplers work, how the pin lifters work, that this incident was caused without a doubt by sabotage,” McDaniel said during a hearing, according to KUOW who obtained a transcript.

KUOW notes that two young men were reported to have emerged from the tracks before the crash, though no suspects have been revealed by the FBI so far.

Former National Transportation Safety Board investigator Russell Quimby told KUOW, “Whoever did this had enough knowledge of railroad equipment to know what he’s doing and enough knowledge of an air-brake system to know what to do.”

No one has claimed responsibility for the train crash, KUOW notes, with the rail company so far blaming the rail crew for failing to detect the compromised train brakes.

Federal terrorism statutes designate tampering with critical infrastructure a form of terrorism. The maximum punishment for sabotaging a train carrying toxic materials, like the cars that crashed in December, is life in prison. 

Tags Emergency brake Rail transport Railway brake Railway brakes Railway coupling Sabotage Washington

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