Tracks were inspected the same day as deadly train derailment near Pueblo, train operator says

Shanna Lewis/KRCC News
Workers at the site of a BNSF train derailment and bridge collapse just north of Pueblo, Colo.

A track that had a broken rail that likely caused a deadly coal train derailment near Pueblo was inspected the same day as the accident, according to a recent statement from BNSF, the freight railway company responsible for the train and tracks. 

Federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board have said that the broken rail occurred prior to the bridge collapse over Interstate 25 that killed semi-truck driver 60-year-old Lafollette Henderson of California.

A written statement from the company said, “Our teams regularly conduct extensive track, bridge, rail and weather event inspections across our network. BNSF routinely conducts a number of inspections to the track using a combination of rail detection testing, advanced track infrastructure testing and visual inspections, including the most recent inspection that occurred on Sunday, October 15 prior to the derailment.”

Although ownership of the structure is still unclear, the railroad company is also responsible for inspecting, maintaining and replacing the bridge.

Colorado Department of Transportation is responsible for inspecting and maintaining bridges that carry vehicular traffic. However, according to a CDOT official, they do periodically inspect rail bridges and their personnel inspected this bridge last year.

The preliminary report on the incident from the NTSB is due within 30 days and the final report can take one two years. The NTSB is an investigative agency charged with gathering evidence determining a probable cause of the accident and any contributing factors. It can make recommendations but does not have regulatory or enforcement powers.

“We are committed to continuous improvement and will carefully consider the NTSB’s final report and recommendations when they come out to more fully understand what lessons can be learned from this incident,” the statement from BNSF said.

The accident closed Interstate 25 in both directions for several days. Traffic was moving again in both directions by late Thursday afternoon.