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Accident Report Detail

St. Louis Southwestern Railway Company Freight Train Derailment and Rupture of Vinyl Chloride Tank Car

Executive Summary

About 12:10 a.m., on March 29, 1978, 4 locomotive units and 43 cars of St. Louis Southwestern Railway Company freight train SRASK derailed when they entered an 8 curve in the wye track at Lewisville, Arkansas. The body of the 13th car struck and ruptured the tank head of the 12th car, releasing vinyl chloride into the atmosphere. The vinyl chloride subsequently ignited and buildings within a 1,500-foot radius of the ruptured car were damaged. About 1,700 residents of Lewisville were evacuated. The engineer and two head brakemen were injured. Property damage was estimated to be $2,189,000.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the engineer and other crewmembers to slow train SRASK for the 10-mph speed restriction through the wye track as required by the railroad's general orders. As a result of the train's high speed and consequent emergency brake application, the high rail in the curve moved laterally, allowing the locomotive to derail, and subsequently turn over, and the following cars to derail. The release and ignition of vinyl chloride from the ruptured tank car caused extensive damage to the train equipment and the adjacent industrial plant and buildings.

Accident Location: Lewisville , AR    
Accident Date: 3/29/1978
Accident ID: RAR7808

Date Adopted: 12/7/1978
NTSB Number: RAR-78-08
NTIS Number: PB-291758/AS

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