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Accident Report Detail

Derailment and Hazardous Materials Release with Fatality, Montana Rail Link

Executive Summary

About 4:10 a.m., mountain daylight time, on April 11, 1996, 19 cars from Montana Rail Link (MRL) freight train 01-196-10 derailed near Alberton, Montana. Six of the derailed cars contained hazardous materials. One derailed tank car containing chlorine (a poison gas) ruptured, releasing 130,000 pounds of chlorine into the atmosphere; another tank car containing potassium hydroxide solution (potassium cresylate, a corrosive liquid) lost 17,000 gallons of product; and a covered hopper car containing sodium chlorate (an oxidizer) spilled 85 dry gallons onto the ground.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was a rail section that fractured in vertical split head mode under the passing train induced by rail with reduced load bearing capacity because of head and gage face wear. Contributing to the cause of the accident was the inability of the ultrasonic rail defect detection equipment to readily identify internal defects in rail with surface defects.

Accident Location: Alberton , MN    
Accident Date: 4/11/1996
Accident ID: LAX96FR010

Date Adopted: 8/18/1998
NTSB Number: RAB-98-07
NTIS Number:  

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