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Arizona freight train derails causing fire and bridge collapse

A cyclist who was beneath the Arizona bridge as it collapsed after a freight train derailed Wednesday has told how she managed to escape with just seconds to spare.  

Investigative reporter Camille Kimball, 59, described the incident as a ‘scene from hell’ after up to ten cars derailed, including a tanker labeled with a hazardous materials sign, over Tempe Beach Park.

The incident happened at around 6am local time. None of the train’s crew members were hurt but there was a report of someone suffering from smoke inhalation, said Tim McMahan, a spokesman for Union Pacific Railroad. 

Kimball told ‘I had been biking up in the desert and had just been coming across the historic Mill Avenue Bridge and I passed under the train bridge which is something I do every day. 

‘As I entered the area under the train bridge I was aware there was a train passing because I can hear it. It got really loud and I thought “this is the loudest train I’ve ever heard”. 

‘As I emerged into the sunshine I could see other joggers and dog walkers facing the bridge with their cell phones out. Where I had been there was fiery debris.’

Kimball said she avoided the bridge collapse by seconds.

‘As I watched the flames got higher and higher,’ she said. ‘I realized the sound I heard was the bridge collapsing. 

‘I feel we are all lucky in so far as we know no one was hurt.’  

She added to CBS5: ‘I turned around to look and got the fright of my life. 

‘Now there’s fire pouring into the lake from the middle of the bridge. It’ looks like a scene from hell, truly. A scene from hell. The flames are intense and the sky is filled with black smoke.’   

Union Pacific Railroad spokesman McMahan said two tanker cars on the ground contained flammable liquid cyclohexanone and another contained a rubber material but that there were no reports of any leaks and these tanks were not part of the blaze. 

Several cars carried lumber and the three that fell to the ground beneath the bridge were the tank cars.

Investigators with the Federal Railroad Administration were dispatched to start a preliminary investigation, the agency said in a statement. 

The bridge had its annual inspection earlier this month, McMahan said.

Tempe police had tweeted: ‘@TempePolice and Tempe Fire are on scene of a train derailment and large fire over Tempe Town Lake. 

‘Several roads are restricted near Tempe Town Lake and west of downtown Tempe. Please avoid the area.’ 

Police Chief Sylvia Moir tweeted: ‘Update- Tempe Train derailment and Fire- No injuries known at this time but the scene is very dangerous. 

‘Stay out of Tempe Town Lake and away from the area.’

At least 90 firefighters were on the scene of the crash which involved a Union Pacific train. 

Valley Metro tweeted: ‘Service Alert-Update: Due to a heavy rail fire in Tempe, Valley Metro is terminating service eastbound at 38th St/Wash and Smith Martin/Apache Blvd in Tempe. Buses are being assembled to transport passengers around the incident.’  

Local TV station footage showed huge flames, plumes of thick, black smoke and train cars lying on the ground below the bridge. 

The 2.5-mile man-made lake is a popular recreation spot for jogging, cycling and boating located near Arizona State University. 

Tempe hit the headlines earlier this week when a protest to support the Black Lives Matter movement turned violent. 

After the crowd ignored orders to disperse, police deployed tear gas at the protesters, who responded by launching projectiles and shouting profanities as they moved toward a line of officers on bicycles.

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