OHP: Train, tanker collision kills 2

Friday, August 29th 2008, 11:19 am
By: News 9


MEDFORD, Okla. -- Two men died and one was injured Friday when a tanker collided with a train near Medford, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Larry Williams of Oklahoma City and Richard Pardarvis of Anadarko were pronounced dead at the scene.

Dennis Etherton was taken by helicopter to the St. Francis Trauma Center in Wichita, KS., according to Union Pacific, the company that operates the train. The 52-year-old suffered burns to his head and core area.

Union Pacific officials said Benny and Pardarvis were the only people on board the train.

"It was a large explosion with fire," OHP Lt. George Brown said. "So, it was massive enough to blow the tanker in half, one part each on the side of the train."

Witnesses told a local radio station that they saw an explosion that resembled a mushroom cloud shortly after 9 a.m. Friday near the scene of the collision on U.S. Highway 81.

The train collided with a truck, possibly a propane tanker, said Raquel Espinoza, spokeswoman for Union Pacific.

The railroad is near a ONEOK plant. An official with the Tulsa-based natural gas company told KOFM-radio that the plant was not being threatened by the fire from the wreckage.

"We did preliminary reports, confirmed it was hauling LP gas, that's a propane-like gas that dissipates in the air, so it is not of concern for us," Brown said.

U.S. 81 was closed one mile south of Medford and the city of Medford is without power.

At 9:30 a.m., at least two of the train's engines were still ablaze. Hazardous materials crews were called to the scene. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol reports that the surrounding area is safe and no evacuations were necessary.

Union Pacific railroad investigators are also reviewing video to determine exactly what happened.

The stretch of U.S. 81 was later re-opened to commuters.

Medford is in central Oklahoma about 20 miles south of the Kansas state line.

Friday's collision marks the second time this month rail service has been disrupted in the state. A train carrying fuel derailed and caught fire Aug. 22 near Luther.

     Related story: Officials investigate train derailment in Luther