Acknowledgement to Ironshore Environmental
SAN ANTONIO, Texas, June 28 (Reuters) – At least three people were killed when a Union Pacific Corp. (NYSE:UNP – News) freight train hauling chlorine gas and anhydrous ammonia struck another train and derailed in a rural area on Monday, spreading a hazardous gas cloud.
Two people were found dead in a vehicle near the site of the derailment, San Antonio Fire Department spokesman Randy Jenkins said. The cause of death was not immediately known, but Jenkins said the deaths were related to the derailment.
Union Pacific spokesman John Bromley said one body was found in the wreckage of the train. Emergency officials said it was the train’s missing engineer. The crash occurred in a rural section about 15 miles southwest of San Antonio’s downtown.
At least 20 people were hospitalized for exposure to the gas but none were seriously injured, Jenkins said.
“The tanker split open and put out a chlorine cloud,” Jenkins said. “People have been complaining of respiratory distress.”
The other train is owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. (NYSE:BNI – News)
Six of the people treated for exposure work at San Antonio’s Sea World, located 10 miles (16 km) away from the crash. The gas release caused traffic snarls across the city as it spread.
“The air smells very strongly of chlorine. When you go outside, it burns your eyes, your throat, your lungs,” said Marie Mooso, who lives about 5 miles (8 km) away.
Chlorine is commonly used in hundreds of household and industrial applications, from swimming pools to water treatment plants. But the gas is potentially lethal and was used in World War I chemical weapons.
Officials originally identified the second chemical as ammonium nitrate, a commonly used fertilizer that is highly explosive.
They later said it was anhydrous ammonia, an agricultural fertilizer also used to manufacture the illegal drug methamphetamine.