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URGENT Truck Collides With Train, Kills One, Spills Radioactive Material

August 28, 1985

BOWDON, N.D. (AP) _ A truck hauling drums of uranium oxide collided with a freight train Tuesday, killing the driver of the truck and spilling the low-level radioactive material, authorities said.

A crewman aboard the Burlington Northern train was exposed to the chemical but was not hospitalized.

No evacuations were ordered in the 4:45 p.m. accident, but authorities sealed off the area, which was about three miles east of Bowdon and 70 miles northeast of Bismarck, said Doug Friez, state readiness supervisor for the North Dakota Division of Emergency Management.

The truck was hauling more than 50 drums containing powdered uranium oxide, a low-hazard, non-fissionable material that presented no danger outside 20 feet from the accident site, he said.

″There is not a concern with the general public as long as they do not go to the scene of the accident,″ Friez said. ″There’s no danger to communities or anything else.″

Uranium oxide is a low-grade ore that after it is refined is used as fuel in nuclear power plants, said Terry Lindsey, a state radiological officer. It does not pose a high radiation threat but can cause respiratory problems, he said.

The driver of the truck was killed in the crash, said Sgt. Doyle Schultz of the Highway Patrol. The victim’s name was not released.

The truck collided with the first of two engines hauling six empty freight cars of the train, which was traveling at 10 mph and heading to Turtle Lake from Jamestown, said Al Wiegold, a spokesman for the Burlington Northern railroad in St. Paul, Minn.

The two engines derailed and one crew member was exposed to the uranium oxide, Wiegold said. However, the crewman was not hospitalized and was OK after being cleaned of the chemical, he said.

Authorities kept spectators 2,000 feet from the spill area, which was near the junction of Highways 52 and 200. Traffic was diverted around the area.

Friez said he did not know how many drums spilled their contents, and said he did not know the owner of the truck or the cargo. Lindsey said the truck and the cargo were from Canada.

Officials from the state Fire Marshals office and the state Health Department were flown to the scene by National Guard helicopters, he said.

Update hourly