Light Rail Train Hits Derailed Coal Train in Colorado

LITTLETON, Colo. --

Nearly 30 passengers were on board a Southwest Corridor light rail train that collided with a derailed coal train in Littleton before dawn Tuesday.

There were no injuries to passengers, but the front car of the light rail train was knocked off its tracks near Santa Fe Boulevard and Prince Street.

It was snowing at the time but it wasn't clear if weather played a role in the 6 a.m. crash, which occurred during the morning rush hour.

"It looked like something out of a movie," Littleton Police Chief Heather Coogan said. "I kept thinking, 'Where's Bruce Willis?'"

Passengers can still use light rail up to the Oxford station, but will have to transfer onto a bridge bus to get to Mineral and downtown Littleton stations until the tracks can be repaired, said Sgt. Trent Cooper of the Littleton Police Department.

Twenty-five cars derailed out of a 106-car coal train operated by Union Pacific. The coal train runs on Burlington Northern tracks, which parallel the light rail tracks. The coal train was heading south when one-quarter of its cars derailed on the curve.

The train operator, Robert Vialpando, said he barely had time to let off the brakes let alone stop the train before it hit.

"If I had noticed that train 10 second later, we probably would have had some fatalities," Vialpando said.

The first car of the light rail train hit the coal train, causing its front wheels to move from the track, Serna said. All of the light rail cars remained upright and the passengers on board exited the train without a problem.

Workers are shoveling the spilled coal into large dump trucks.

"It's just a matter of clean up," Cooper said. Workers estimated they would have all the train cars as well as most of the coal removed by 5:00 a.m. Wednesday.

It should take about 100 truckloads to carry away all the coal, Cooper said.

The storm also delayed the arrival of investigators and heavy equipment for moving the coal.

The rail crash also affected traffic. Northbound Santa Fe was closed for more than an hour at Mineral Avenue to allow emergency vehicles to access the crash site. The northbound lanes were reopened just after 7:30 a.m.

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