Full train service through Denair expected this afternoon

06/02/2013 5:37 PM

06/26/2013 2:32 PM

UPDATE, 3:20 p.m.: BNSF Railway spokeswoman Lena Kent said the temporary rail siding which will allow trains to pass around portion damaged by a freight rain derailment on Sunday, should be up by 3:30 p.m. today.

Freight and passenger trains should start running shortly after.

Kent said the main line should be repaired by 9:30 tonight, and have all trains running back as scheduled afterward.

The derailment has caused delays for Amtrak, which used the same line to run its trains to Bakersfield. The line was closed southbound and northbound from Modesto to Merced, with all passengers rerouted on chartered buses. In Merced passengers either got on a bus to continue to Modesto or onto a train to go on to Bakersfield and beyond.

The derailment caused hour-long delays for all passengers northbound and southbound along the line. A line of half a dozen chartered buses idled at the Modesto Amtrak station Monday morning, with some commissioned from as far away as Concord.

UPDATE, 11 a.m.: Workers at the site of the freight train derailment in Denair were working this morning to prepare rail siding that would allow trains using the busy route to go around the damaged track and cars, authorities said.

BNSF Raiilway spokeswoman Lena Kent said workers were hoping to have the siding open by the afternoon.

About 10 cars went off the track on Sunday at 4:55 p.m. The only two people on the train, the engineer and conductor, were not injured. The train was not carrying any hazardous materials, Kent said.

Kent said investigators are trying to determine what happened. She said official word on the cause could take weeks to release.

She said on average about 40 trains run on those tracks within a 24-hour period, including about 12 Amtrak trains. She did not know how many were scheduled to run last night or today.

She said she will be briefed again about further details early this afternoon.

We’ll have more on this breaking story later today.

DENAIR — Norma Raybourn was outside her Santa Fe Avenue home Sunday, celebrating with friends and relatives at a birthday party, when she heard the train.

"It was noisy and it just kept getting noisier," she said. "Then it was vibrating and it just kept getting worse."

Raybourn and her family ran to the front of the yard in time to see several cars of a freight train derail, crashing into one another and into a self-storage facility in a massive cloud of dust.

A video taken by Tom Stevenson, who was taking photos at the party, shows the dust enveloping the area before clearing to show cars leaning to the side near the front of the train and off the tracks and crumpled into one another farther back.

No injuries were reported in the accident, which occurred at 4:55 p.m. at East Zeering Road and North Santa Fe, Stanislaus County sheriff's Sgt. Anthony Bejaran said. And the train, heading north, wasn't carrying hazardous materials, a concern that had Raybourn and her family hustling back into the rear yard after running out front to see what was happening.

All but three of the train cars were empty, Bejaran said, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe investigators were checking the manifest to make sure everything had been accounted for. Firefighters opened storage units to make sure no hazardous materials had been spilled and nobody had been hurt.

The cause of the accident had not been determined.

Authorities closed the tracks along Santa Fe between East Monte Vista Avenue and East Keyes Road. Bejaran estimated that investigators would be there a few days. He had no estimation of when the tracks would be reopened to freight trains or Amtrak's passenger service, because some of the rail was damaged.

Amtrak dispatched a bus to carry passengers expecting to get on the train Sunday evening. That included Fabiola Rubio of Delhi, headed back to the University of California at Davis and planning to get on the 7:10 p.m. train. She called Amtrak after a friend who lived in Denair told her about the derailment.

At Raybourn's home, friends and family stood around and talked about the unbelievable scene they'd witnessed. Some said they at first thought it was a car accident, as one had happened a few years before.

"Everybody was just shaking," Raybourn said. "We were like, 'Are you kidding? This is happening in front of our eyes.' "

Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.

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