MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The normally pristine scenery of the Mississippi River had a much different look Sunday near Alma, Wisconsin.
The day before, several cars of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train went off the tracks.
Duck hunters like Derrick Bartell were the first to realize something wasn’t right.
“The echo was like an echo we never even heard,” he said. “We didn’t know what it was…it was the train crashing.”
Of the 32 cars that derailed, at least five went into the river, spilling up to 100 gallons of ethanol.
Adam Rogers was also hunting on the river Saturday, and went in for a closer look.
“As we got closer to it, we could see one of the cars was spewing out liquid, and we didn’t know what it was,” he said. “There was a flammable sign right on [the car], so we know had to be something pretty serious.”
The spill initially prompted a voluntary evacuation of a half mile area, impacting about 150 people.
Law enforcement eventually realized the ethanol didn’t pose a threat, but still kept roads blocked.
Along the tracks, clean up and damage assessment began Sunday, with officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the scene.
The impact of the derailment will be felt for some time.
“The tracks are right behind all these houses,” Bartell said. “It could have been a bigger problem.”
BNSF is investigating the cause of the derailment.