PANHANDLE, TX (KFDA) - Two teams of railroaders on the morning of June 28 left on trips that would end in twisted, burning wreckage near Panhandle - three people dead, one injured.
The National Transportation Board has released documents showing from about 3 miles apart, each train would be visible to crews on the other. The problem was they were on the same track headed straight for each other.
One train ran past a signal that said to stop.
Transcripts of what onboard cameras caught show one minute before the crash happens horns sound. For almost a minute freight cars pile into each other. After 4 minutes a person approaches the mangled flaming mess and a voice says "is somebody in there?"
An eyewitness to the aftermath, Clay Sims, told investigators it took him seconds to get to the scene and train Engineer Derek Schilling was walking away from the fire and smoke with a large gash on the back of his head. He was the only person to jump before the crash.
"And he said he couldn't believe they – they were on my track. He said I tried like crazy to get her to jump off (referring to his Conductor Lara Taylor), and I assumed she was going to leave behind me," Sims said.
As it unfolded:
- One train leaves westbound from Wellington, Kan. It’s 8,500 feet long and weighs 7,500 tons.
- Another departs Amarillo eastbound. It’s 10,200 feet long and weighs 9,100 tons.
- At 8:21 a.m. on June 28 the trains collide headon near Panhandle.
- BNSF employees Cody Owens, Lara Taylor and Kenneth Smith die in the crash.
- Average daily train count on that section of track is 71.
- BNSF estimate of $16 million in damage including $12 million in equipment, $3.5 million for cargo and $233,000 for damage to a stop signal one train ran through.
- Inspectors went over the track the day before and saw no defects.
- Surviving Engineer Derek Schilling files suit for $1 million against BNSF in state court in Fort Worth.