The train was on route from Tulsa to San Bernardino, California and was hauling vehicles when its rail wagons were decoupled and rolled back into a second train arriving from Chicago. Fortunately there were no injuries to employees.
Twenty-eight of the 57 rail cars involved in the crash were carrying finished vehicles, none of which are reported to be salvageable. BNSF said it would not be releasing specifics on the commodities being transported, including the brand of vehicles, though footage clearly shows Kia vehicles among the wreckage.
“Someone with knowledge of a train’s air brake system had tampered with the brake system on a parked train carrying vehicles in BNSF’s Tulsa rail yard, enabling the rear 57 cars of the train to release and roll away and collide with a mixed freight train,” said BNSF in a statement.
The incident, which happened around 1am on Friday morning, is now being investigated by the FBI.
“We believe the coupling device was removed from the train so right now we are treating this as an act of vandalism,” BNSF’s spokesperson Joe Faust told local news services.
The company is offering a $100,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction of those responsible for the vandalism.
The train wreckage backed up on the tracks spanned about a mile in north Tulsa.
Train crews worked throughout Friday clear up the scene and lay new track. The section was reopened at 6.25 am on Saturday. However, around 100 gallons of diesel spilled from one of the train engines into a local creek and authorities are now assessing how long the clean up operation will take.