Two Union Pacific train crew members were killed and two others were injured when two freight trains collided head-on in northeast Arkansas early Sunday, Arkansas State Police said.
The collision happened about 3 a.m. in Hoxie, a small town about 90 miles northwest of Memphis Tennessee. A resulting fire took about seven hours to extinguish, according to Union Pacific spokesman Brandon Morris.
Authorities asked about 500 people within 1½ miles of the collision to leave their homes following the crash because of the fire, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office said. Most were allowed to return home by midmorning Sunday, according to county Emergency Management Director Buddy Williams.
“The fire involved diesel and also there was a tank car that ruptured and it contained an (unknown) alcoholic beverage,” Arkansas Department of Emergency Management spokesman Kendell Snyder said. He said there were no other leaks.
“We don’t know the cause of the accident. We have no idea why these trains were on the same line,” Williams said, noting no local residents were hurt.
It’s at least the second head-on collision involving UP trains since 2012, when two collided in the Oklahoma Panhandle that June, which killed three crew members and injured a fourth.
The names of those killed and injured on Sunday were not immediately released by Union Pacific.
“We’re still conducting an investigation, we haven’t made any notifications,” Morris said. He did not know where the trains had originated or where they were headed.
It was not immediately known how many cars the two trains were pulling, Morris said, but he said there were no other cars leaking any materials.
Morris said the National Transportation Safety Board has been notified and will take over the investigation.
U.S. highways 67 and 63, main arteries through Hoxie and the adjacent town of Walnut Ridge, were closed for several hours Sunday. Highway 67 at the intersection with U.S. Highway 230 will likely remain closed for up to three days while the wreckage is removed, Arkansas State Police said.