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Conductor Killed in Coal Train Derailment

February 14, 2003

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. (AP) _ A fully loaded coal train derailed Thursday in this western Nebraska city, piling up debris 20 feet high and killing the conductor who was buried in the rubble.

The accident was believed to have occurred when the coal train collided with a switch engine.

``Why that occurred, we don’t know,″ said Steve Forsberg, spokesman for the train’s operator, Burlington Northern Santa Fe. ``Obviously they should not have been in the same place at the same time.″

Steven Thomas, 38, apparently jumped from the train before impact and was buried under more than 2,000 tons of coal, Forsberg said. The body was recovered two hours after the accident.

The accident briefly knocked out power to parts of Scottsbluff.

Two engines and about 20 cars went off the tracks, including cars thrown onto their sides. Witnesses said the mangled debris from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train included one car thrown straight up on one end.

``I haven’t seen one like this in a long time,″ said Scotts Bluff County Sheriff Jim Lawson.

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