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Accident Report Detail

Louisville and Nashville Railroad Co. Freight Train Derailment and Puncture of Anhydrous Ammonia Tank Cars

Executive Summary

About 6:06 p.m., on November 9, 1977, 2 SD-45 locomotive units and 35 cars of Louisville Nashville freight train No. 407 derailed when entering a 6°04' curve at Pensacola, Florida. The adjacent tank heads of the 18th and 19th cars were punctured during the derailment by a loose wheel and axle assembly; this released anhydrous ammonia into the atmosphere. Two persons died and 46 were injured as a result of the derailment, release of anhydrous ammonia, and evacuation of about 1,000 persons. Property damage was estimated to be $724,000.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the overturning of the high rail in the 6°04' curve which caused track gage to widen. The high rail tipped because it was not able to withstand the lateral forces generated by the 6-axle locomotive units because of the tight gage of the track, and the forces generated because of the placement of a lightly loaded long car and an empty short car directly behind the locomotive with large trailing tonnage. The cause of the fatalities and injuries was the release of anhydrous ammonia through punctures in the tank cars; head shields would have prevented such punctures.

Accident Location: Pensacola , FL    
Accident Date: 11/9/1977
Accident ID: 79768

Date Adopted: 7/20/1978
NTSB Number: RAR-78-04
NTIS Number: PB-284335/AS

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