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Accident Report Detail

Derailment of Missouri Pacific Railroad Company's Train 94

Executive Summary

The Missouri Pacific Railroad's freight train 94 was traveling north on track which belongs to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway when 20 of its cars derailed in Houston, Texas, on October 19, 1971, at 1:44 p.m. There were four diesel electric locomotive units and 82 cars in the train.

Derailed cars included six tank cars containing vinyl chloride monomer and two cars containing other hazardous materials. Two tank cars were punctured in the derailment. The vinyl chloride monomer escaped and ignited. The Houston Fire Department attempted to control the fire. Approximately 45 minutes after the initial derailment, one tank car ruptured violently and another tank car "rocketed" approximately 300 feet from its initial resting place. This sequence of events caused the death of a fireman. Fifty people were injured and there was considerable property damage. Most of the injured were firemen.

Probable Cause

The Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was an unexplained emergency brake application which induced lateral forces exceeding the holding capacity of the track fasteners. The severity of the accident was increased by the abrupt rupture of the tank car and the lack of adequate training, information, and documented procedures for identifying and assessing the threats to public safety.

Accident Location: Houston , TX    
Accident Date: 10/19/1971
Accident ID: 79781

Date Adopted: 12/13/1972
NTSB Number: RAR-72-06
NTIS Number: PB-216608

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