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Freight Train Carrying Chemicals Derails

August 21, 1986

TROY, Mont. (AP) _ A freight train carrying chemicals derailed and caught fire Wednesday, injuring at least three people and forcing the evacuation of the downtown area, authorities said.

Cylinders of ether in a Burlington Northern freight train began leaking after the derailment, ″caught fire and began exploding,″ said Lincoln County sheriff’s dispatcher Bob Stright.

At least three injuries were reported, he said.

Residents in a half-mile radius were evacuated after the 3:55 p.m. accident, Stright said. They were allowed to return about four hours later after the fire was brought under control, said City Clerk Betty Jones.

″There was a pretty big fire to start off with, a lot of smoke,″ said Peter Paquet, who owns a cabinetry shop near where the train derailed. ″There was a lot of black smoke and probably about 20-foot flames coming up off the train car.″

Burlington Northern spokesman Howard Kallio in Helena said about 20 cars derailed, and that the ether was on a flatcar.

The cause of the derailment was unknown, Stright said, adding that a special crew was being brought to the scene by the railroad.

One of the three people hurt suffered an electrical injury, while another had a respiratory ailment ″from inhaled fumes,″ Stright said. He didn’t know the extent of the other victim’s injury.

Kallio said the railroad had no official reports of injuries, but that he had been told a railway brakeman had complained of chest pains from inhaling ether and was hospitalized for a short time.

A portion of U.S. Highway 2 was blocked by authorities for about two hours.

The timber and mining community of about 1,100 people is just east of the northern Idaho border.

Calls to the Troy Medical Center, the Troy Volunteer Ambulance Service and other businesses went unanswered, but the Troy Police Department was besieged by callers.

″Things are settling down, but I can’t give you any information,″ police dispatcher Denise Vogel said nearly three hours after the derailment.

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