IA railroad finds switch near Menlo had been tampered with (updated 11-a.m.)
June 13th, 2011 by Ric Hanson
Investigators say someone tampered with a train switch in west-central Iowa which could’ve caused a serious accident. Mick Burkart, Iowa Interstate Railroad’s Chief Operating Officer, says the switch box was broken into just west of Menlo. It was discovered around 4 a.m. Sunday.
“A passing crew noticed the switch target did not look right. They notified out train dispatcher who stopped all trains in the area,” Burkart said. “We got some maintenance personnel out there to check and they found the switch had been tampered with.” If the crew had not made the discovery, Burkart says at some point, a train would’ve derailed.
“We could’ve had fatalities, we could’ve had a release of hazardous materials, we could’ve had quite a bit of damage…very bone-chilling to think about what could have happened,” Burkart said. Authorities have been taking fingerprints in the area of the switch box.
The FBI is assisting with the investigation. The Iowa State Patrol and Guthrie County Sheriff’s office are also involved. Burkart says there are locks on switch boxes, so they are not easy to break into.
“People, if they’re very determined, can do just about anything. So, it just depends on how determined they are,” Burkart said. All trains were shut down in the area from 4 a.m. until noon.