Updated with updated details
The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation into what caused two freight trains to collided at approximately 2:30 Saturday morning near Chaffee, Mo., severely damaging a bridge on Highway M.
The bridge collapsed after a Union Pacific train hit the side of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train at a rail intersection. Derailed rail cars then hit columns supporting the Highway M overpass, causing it to buckle and partially collapse.
A total of seven people were injured due to the collision, five of which were in two vehicles traversing the bridge shortly after it collapsed.
None of the injuries were life threatening, according to Mark Hasheider, assistant fire chief of the Cape Girardeau Fire Department.
One train was primarily carrying auto parts and new cars, the other train was hauling scrap metal. No hazardous material was being transported.
A signifcant amount of fuel was spilled due to the crash, which resulted in a large fire. A total of around 75 firefighters from eight departments responded to the fire, according to Hasheider.
Trooper Clark Parrott, a spokesman for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said the circumstances surrounding the collision are highly unusual.
“It just doesn’t happen,” Parrott said. “These train lines have warning lights and things all the way down the line for them. I’m just having a hard time getting it processed that two trains hit at basically a four way intersection.”
Parrott said it was fortunate that the accident happened early in the morning.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Parrott said. “If this would have happened at three o’clock in the afternoon, and there’s constant traffic going over that overpass, or God forbid a school bus would have been up there. Everyone dodged a bullet there, and NTSB is going to get to the bottom of it and find out exactly what happened.”
Follow Tim Lloyd on Twitter: @TimSLloyd