REXBURG - The unloading of two railroad tank cars full of propane at the scene of an Eastern Idaho Railroad train derailment in Rexburg began Tuesday.

The propane is being transferred with a tanker truck to empty railroad tank cars, a process Madison Fire Department officials say will continue overnight.

The accident occurred Friday on the Eastern Idaho Railroad just south of Second North.

Fire department officials say the accident happened when four tanker cars that were apparently being moved north on a siding derailed.

They say some of the cars tipped against two other tank cars that were stationary on the main line, blocking it.

Monday afternoon Fire Chief Corey Child said the department became aware of the derailment on Saturday, but neither police nor fire department officials were notified of the incident at the time it happened.

Tuesday morning, Garrett Bolyard, assistant general manager for Eastern Idaho Railroad, said a broken rail led to the derailment.

Asked about the delay in notifying officials Bolyard said, "We didn't feel there was any immediate danger. We're working with Rexburg officials to resolve the situation."

Initially the fire department believed that all the tank cars but one were empty, but later communication with the railroad revealed that there were two tank cars full of propane.

Child said the railroad has provided a printout on the identification numbers and contents for each of the derailed cars.

Bolyard said the railroad plans to empty the tank cars and then use a crane to get them back on the track.

Railroad workers were at the site Tuesday working on repairing the siding.

Bud Bartolome, a railroad and hazardous materials safety representative for the Idaho Public Utilities Commission was on the scene Tuesday. He also represents the Federal Railroad Administration.

"They're going to off-load it and fix it," Bartolome said. "The railroad has been cooperative - they've told me everything I've asked for."

Asked Tuesday afternoon how the unloading process was proceeding, he said, "I think they're doing a good job."

Child said the fire department is continuing to monitor the situation as the tanks are emptied.

"The fire department's involvement has simply been to ensure the safety of the citizens and infrastructure of the city," he said. "Until the problem is rectified, we'll continue to monitor their work, including the off-loading and getting the railroad cars back on the rails. To put things in perspective, the national hazardous materials guidebook says if the tanks had been breached we would have had to evacuate one square mile of the city - thus our intense involvement in the mitigation process."


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