Train derailment in Colfax causes evacuations

Evacuation lifted; clean-up to go into the night
By: Katie Sanders, Special to Gold Country News Service
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COLFAX -- A train derailment in Colfax caused the evacuation of residents and businesses within 500 feet of the wreck late Sunday morning.

A double stacked freight carrier derailed just in front of the US Bank on Grass Valley and Main streets at around 11 a.m. Sunday. The train was traveling from Chicago to Oakland when five of the 139 cars were derailed.

"The train was heading westbound and crossed the tracks. Approximately 100 people were evacuated from businesses and residences on both sides of the tracks," said Placer County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Carol Walsh.

According to a Placer County deputy there was an unknown substance leaking from one of the cars that was being investigated, which caused the evacuation. The evacuated area was re-opened around 3 p.m. when it was discovered that the leaking fluid was a non-toxic saline solution preservative used for tanning leather hides.

San Francisco 49ers football fans holding a tailgate party in downtown Colfax for the NFC championship game witnessed the passing train seemingly hop off the tracks just 50 feet down from their barbeque.

Suddenly “about three cars before the main intersection” a train car crashed into the dirt, “digging a trench in the rocks” said Dakota Sheets, who witnessed the derailment of the train. “I heard a pop and the front wheel of one of the cars broke, at least that’s what it looked like.”

Sheets, along with his and five other families, were standing in the parking lot just across from the US Bank when the derailment happened.

Shiloh Rebozzi explained how chaotic the situation was as it happened less than 100 feet away.

“There was a big bang initially like it bottomed out, and that got everyone’s attention. Then it hit the concrete of the crossing,” Rebozzi said. The scariest part of it all was “to make sure all the children were safe.”

Workers will be working through the night to remove the damaged cars from the tracks so that the intersection and hopefully the train tracks can be re-opened sometime Monday.

"I'm not a train expert but I would think that they are going to need a couple of cranes to clean this up," Walsh said.

Gold Country News Service’s Michael Kirby contributed to this report.