On Saturday, May 27, 2000, about 11:48 a.m., central daylight time, 33 of the 113 cars making up eastbound Union Pacific Railroad train QFPLI-26 derailed near Eunice, Louisiana. Of the derailed cars, 15 contained hazardous materials and 2 contained hazardous materials residue. The derailment resulted in a release of hazardous materials with explosions and fire. About 3,500 people were evacuated from the surrounding area, which included some of the business area of Eunice. No one was injured during the derailment of the train or the subsequent release of hazardous materials. Total damages exceeded $35 million.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the May 27, 2000, derailment of Union Pacific train QFPLI-26 was the failure of a set of joint bars that had remained in service with undetected and uncorrected defects because of the Union Pacific Railroad's ineffective track inspection procedures and inadequate management oversight.
The major safety issues identified in this investigation are track conditions on the Union Pacific's Beaumont Subdivision and the effectiveness of the Union Pacific's track inspection activities, including management oversight.
As a result of the investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board makes safety recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration, the Union Pacific Railroad, and the Association of American Railroads.
As a result of its investigation of this accident, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations:
To the Federal Railroad Administration:
Modify your track inspection program to incorporate the volume of hazardous materials shipments made over the tracks in determining the frequency and type of track inspections. (R-02-13)
To the Union Pacific Railroad:
Change your track inspection programs to ensure that managers are making use of all available information about track conditions, including railroad and Federal Railroad Administration track inspection reports, to identify trends or problem areas and to monitor the effectiveness of daily track inspections. (R-02-14)
To the Association of American Railroads:
Revise the guidance in your Circular No. OT-55, Recommended Railroad Operating Practices for Transportation of Hazardous Materials, to recommend that all key routes be subjected to periodic track inspections that will identify cracks or breaks in joint bars. (R-02-15)