Wheel failure blamed in 2015 fiery Heimdal derailment

File Photo Smoke plumes rise from a derailment near Heimdal on May 6, 2015.

HEIMDAL – A broken wheel led to the derailment of six of the 107 loaded tank cars carrying crude oil on a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train May 6, 2015, near Heimdal, in Wells County, according to a recently released report of the National Transportation Safety Administration. No injuries or fatalities were reported in the derailment. However, five of the derailed tank cars breached, releasing about 96,400 gallons of crude oil. The ensuing fire forced the evacuation of about 30 people from Heimdal and the surrounding area due to the smoke plume.

The NTSB determined the left wheel, in the second position on car 81, was broken due to a vertical split rim, which led to catastrophic failure of the wheel due to multiple overstress fractures.

As a result of the investigation, the NTSB issued two safety recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration to research and evaluate wheel impact load thresholds and to mandate actions that railroads must take to avoid or identify mechanical defects when identified by wheel impact load detectors.

A third recommendation was issued to the FRA and the Association of American Railroads to seek collaboration in evaluating safe peak vertical load thresholds. The goal would be to determine actions that can be taken when there are suspected defective wheel conditions in high-hazard flammable train service.

Congressman Kevin Cramer, R-ND, announced the release of the report Thursday.

“I vividly remember arriving on the accident scene and seeing the damage caused by the derailment. Thankfully, the quick response by first responders and railway officials helped ensure property damage was kept to a minimum. I look forward to reviewing the accident report and working to help implement the recommended changes,” he said.