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7 injured in cargo train collision, bridge collapse in Missouri

New vehicles were being transported on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train when it was struck by a Union Pacific train in Missouri.

Fred Lynch/Southeast Missourian/AP

New vehicles were being transported on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train when it was struck by a Union Pacific train in Missouri.

CHAFFEE, Mo. — The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation into the cause of a cargo train collision that partially collapsed a highway overpass in southeast Missouri, injuring seven people.

The collision occurred about 2:30 a.m. Saturday when a Union Pacific train hit a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train at a rail intersection under a highway near Chaffee, a town of about 3,000 southwest of Cape Girardeau.

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Scott County Sheriff’s Office Dispatcher Clay Slipis said several cars derailed and hit a pillar of the Highway M overpass, bringing it partially down. Two cars were on the overpass when it fell. The highway was shut down for about 8 miles from Scott City to Chaffee.

Seven people — five in the vehicles and a UP train conductor and engineer — were taken to Saint Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau. All seven had been treated and released by early afternoon, hospital spokeswoman Felecia Blanton said.

Blanton said when she heard about the crash, she immediately went online and saw video footage of the scene and was bracing for the worst. She said it was ‘‘a real blessing’’ that the injuries were relatively minor, the most serious being a fracture.

‘‘If you look at the pictures, they’re very dramatic, and there are no serious injuries,’’ she said. ‘‘So it’s amazing.’’

A diesel fire that broke out after the collision was quickly extinguished, Slipis said.

BNSF spokesman Andy Williams said the 75-car BNSF train, which was carrying scrap metal, was hit by the Union Pacific train about eight cars back from the locomotive. He said 12 cars on the BNSF train derailed.

‘‘Our crew was not impacted,’’ Williams said.

Union Pacific spokeswoman Calli Hite said the 60-car UP train was carrying primarily automobiles or auto parts from Illinois to Texas. She said about a dozen UP railcars derailed.

Hite said the NTSB will determine what caused the accident, and that there was no immediate estimate on the amount of damage to the roadway or the rail cars.

‘‘We have no indication as to cause of the incident, but that will be handled by the NTSB,’’ Hite said.

Williams said cleanup had not yet begun at mid-day Saturday because crews were waiting for the NTSB to arrive.

‘‘We are fully cooperating with the NTSB, and we have to defer to their timeline,’’ Hite said.

The NTSB had also scheduled a 4 p.m. briefing near the site.

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