ELKO – A train derailed Wednesday morning east of Wells, prompting the closure of Interstate 80 for about an hour and a half.
The Elko County Sheriff’s Office reported that the train was carrying explosives, but it was later confirmed that the explosives were on a section of the train that was not involved in the derailment.
“Rail cars containing munitions are located at the opposite end of the train, away from the derailment.” the sheriff’s office said.
Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Jim Stewart said the munitions were on their way to the Hawthorne Army Depot.
Stewart said that when the Highway Patrol arrived on the scene, there was a lot of dust and possibly smoke around the derailment.
“We weren’t sure if it was a hazardous material or not, because trains haul all kinds of stuff,” Stewart said, “so as a precaution until we found out what it was, we closed the highway, so people weren’t driving through the dust and the smoke.”
The freeway was closed in both directions from Wells to Moor, a six-mile stretch.
Stewart said they later determined that the dust was aluminum oxide, which is a skin irritant but not a hazardous material. By that time most of the dust was gone.
They reopened the highway around noon.
A Union Pacific Railroad spokesman said 22 cars derailed shortly before 10 a.m. Initial reports from Union Pacific said that vegetable oil had spilled from the derailed train, but UP spokeswoman Kristen South said late Wednesday afternoon that they had determined that no vegetable oil spilled from the train, only a small amount of diesel.
“No hazardous materials were involved and no one was injured,” said UP spokesman Tim McMahan.
Michael Lyday of Elite Services Group LLC in Salt Lake City was driving into Wells from Elko when he saw the derailed train. He told the Elko Daily Free Press that he took photos and video of the derailment, which was a couple hundred yards from the freeway at the east edge of town.
“When I got there the EMS wasn’t even there yet,” he said.
Lyday said he left the area after receiving a report that incendiary material was on the train.
His video shows a plume rising from the crash and blowing parallel to Interstate 80.
Union Pacific reported before noon that cleanup was underway.
“The cause of the derailment is under investigation,” McMahan said.
In an unrelated incident, two people were transported to a hospital and more than 50 others were treated for symptoms after a rail car spilled at least 300 gallons of sulfur dioxide in Salt Lake City earlier Wednesday morning, KSL.com reported.
That spill happened at Thatcher Chemicals around 8:40 a.m.
Multiple people in the area complained of an odd smell and began to feel symptoms, Salt Lake City Fire Division Chief Ryan Mellor told the television station.