Evacuees returned to homes, some road blocks cleared
Posted: August 17, 2014 at 6:10 a.m.
Updated: August 17, 2014 at 12:47 p.m.
Union Pacific train derailment
Photos by Lieutenant Greg Webb with the Paragould Fire Department.
Arkansas State Police have removed almost all road blocks around Hoxie, with the exception of two, and most of the people evacuated earlier today have been able to return home.
Road blocks will remain at U.S. 67 south of U.S. 63 and U.S. 67 at the intersection with U.S. 230 as crews attempt to remove the wreckage of the collision.
Part of Hoxie in Lawrence County was evacuated after the two trains collided in the area overnight, killing two people, authorities said.
Jonesboro Police and Fire said in a statement that it happened shortly after 2:30 a.m. on tracks near U.S. 67 between Hoxie and Minturn.
Arkansas State Police said the evacuation of part of south Hoxie was "precautionary" because the two Union Pacific trains were carrying "toxic cargo" and one engine caught on fire. That blaze "was reported still burning at daybreak, however it is not believed to be threatening any of the toxic cargo," police noted.
Arkansas Department of Emergency Management spokesman Kendell Snyder said crews did an initial attack on the fire, and they were told the car on fire contained an alcoholic beverage, which along with the diesel fuel from the train was feeding the flames.
Snyder said he has not been briefed on what the toxic substance is.
The two people who died and the two injured were all crew members of the trains, State Police said.
Officials at one point were going door-to-door to evacuate the south end of Hoxie, a statement from Jonesboro police and fire dispatch said, noting residents were being directed to the Walnut Ridge Community Center.
Snyder said about 100 people were at the community center for a short time before being returned to their homes. The Free Street Church of Christ in Walnut Ridge also acted as a shelter for a short time. Around 500 people live in the mile and a half evacuation area, Snyder said.
An investigation of the cause of the collision will be headed up by representatives from Union Pacific who are at the scene of the crash, Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said.
"It's railroad property," Sadler said. "The mission of State Police right now is just to assist local authorities in keeping the roads blocked."
Hoxie sits just south of Walnut Ridge, about 23 miles northwest of Jonesboro.
Information for this story was contributed by Ashley Nerbovig of Arkansas Online.
Read more about this story in Monday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.