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Accident Report Detail

Derailment of Southern Pacific Transportation Company Train No. 01-BSMFF-05 Carrying Radioactive Material

Executive Summary

About 9:50 p.m., P.s.t., on Thursday, January 7, 1982, Southern Pacific Transportation Company freight train No. 01-BSMFF-05, derailed 14 cars at Thermal, California, while traveling about 57 miles per hour on the tangent single main track. Four transients riding on the train were seriously injured, a fifth transient died as a result of injuries. No crewmembers were injured as a result of the accident. The presence of radioactive material in the derailed Trailer-On-Flat-Car train was discovered about 1 hour after the accident occurred, resulting in the handling of the emergency response effort as a serious radiological emergency. Contributing to misdirected emergency response efforts was erroneous and conflicting information concerning hazardous material on the train. Accurate information regarding the precise nature of the radioactive material shipment was not available at the accident site until about 5 hours after the derailment occurred; at that time radiological emergency procedures were terminated. Damage was estimated to be about $1,015,350.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the inadequate company evaluation of defect data which should have indicated that the rail in the vicinity of the derailment was approaching service life limit for main track use and the consequent failure of the company to initiate an accelerated inspection program to detect incipient fatigue fractures of the rail.

Accident Location: Thermal , CA    
Accident Date: 1/7/1982
Accident ID: DCA82AR011

Date Adopted: 1/19/1983
NTSB Number: RAR-83-01
NTIS Number: PB83-916301