VernonReporter

Governor Evers visits site of train derailment as crews work to reopen Hwy 35 and BNSF rail line

De Soto, Wis. – Emergency crews continue to attempt to clear a train wreck that is blocking road and rail traffic on State Hwy 35 along the Mississippi River between La Crosse and Prairie du Chien. Traffic will continue to be rerouted until that wreckage can be cleared. A Burlington Northern Santa Fe train derailed early Thursday afternoon just south of De Soto in Crawford County sending about 20 cars off the tracks.

Governor Evers posted this on social media today about his visit.

Drone footage provided by Ernie Moyers

32nd State Senator Brad Pfaff (D-Onalaska) and 96th Assembly Representative Loren Oldenburg (R-Viroqua) accompanied Evers today.

Oldenburg post this on his social media today:

Pfaff issued this statement yesterday:

My office has been briefed about the BNSF train derailment between De Soto and Ferryville in Crawford County. I have been in touch with emergency management, local officials, BNSF and responding state agencies about the derailment. We will continue to monitor the situation along the Mississippi River, and will be ready to assist in any way required.

Crawford County Emergency Management responded at 12:15p.m. yesterday. The incident occurred when a freight train carrying hazardous materials, amongst other cargo, derailed on the tracks, causing two of three train engines to become derailed and an unknown number of cars to come off the track. The cargo included lithium-ion batteries, oxygen containers, and paint. None of those cars containing those materials appears to breached but hazmat teams were at the scene.

Emergency management officials say four BNSF employees were transported to the hospital for medical evaluation. However, they say that was a precautionary measure.

Responding departments include the Crawford County Emergency Management, Crawford County Highway Department, Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, Vernon County Sheriff’s Office, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Vernon County HazMat, Vernon County Emergency Management, Tristate Ambulance, Gundersen Ambulance, Ferryville Fire Department, Desoto Fire Department, Wheatland Fire Department, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Police, Genoa Fire Department, Wisconsin State Patrol Aerial Unit, Harpers Ferry Fire Department, and Prairie du Chien Fire Department.

Crawford County Emergency Management worked with the Crawford County Highway Department to shut down a section of State Highway 35 until the clean-up process can be completed. At this time there is no estimate for the length of time the highway will be closed.

The cause of the derailment is currently unknown. BNFS and federal agencies are looking into the cause of the derailment and officials say they believe there is no harm to the community or environment.

Crawford County Emergency Management Director James Hackett states this response by volunteer departments was “nothing short of amazing”. Hackett said all entities worked as one team to come up with the safest solution to combat this large issue.

Crawford County Emergency Management encourages all residents to stay away from the site and to follow all detours and safety precautions issued by the department.

A detour has been established until the wreckage can be cleared and motorists are advised to plan alternate routes for now. The detour for those driving from the north to the south toward Prairie du Chien is State Hwy 82 from De Soto to State Hwy 27, then to State Hwy 171 back to State Hwy 35. If you are driving from the south toward La Crosse you would do the opposite and take State Hwy 171 to State Hwy 27 to State Hwy 82 and back to State Hwy 35.

Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Craig Thompson was on the scene yesterday and issued a written statement about the incident.

“The immediate concern is the safety of all those involved and surrounding this incident,” WisDOT Secretary Thompson said. “WisDOT is working diligently to ensure that traffic is diverted to safe roads and bridges while we thoroughly evaluate this event.”

WisDOT staff were at the scene within minutes of the incident, which the freight rail company Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) reported occurring around 12:15 p.m. today.

WisDOT staff tracked rail cars that floated downstream soon after the derailment and passed under the WIS 82/Lansing Causeway before becoming mired along shore. The WIS 82 bridge has been closed since Tuesday (April 25) due to high water and WisDOT will thoroughly inspect the structure for any possible damage.

Traffic on WIS 35 in this area is currently detoured via WIS 171, WIS 27 and WIS 82 as WisDOT works with partner agencies responding to the incident.

No fatalities were reported by local emergency response teams.

In addition to local and county authorities, WisDOT is coordinating with the Office of the Commissioner of Railroads, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Emergency Management, BNSF, the Federal Railroad Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Republican U.S. Rep. Derrick Van Orden said in a statement his staff was traveling to the site of the derailment Thursday afternoon.

“We have begun to coordinate with BNSF, FEMA, Wisconsin Emergency Management, the state and national Departments of Transportation, Crawford County officials, and Congresswoman Ashley Hinson (IA-2), whose District may also be impacted, to get answers on what occurred,” his statement read. “We will continue to monitor the situation and determine next steps.”

We will update this story as information is released.

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