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Freight trains collide in Ark., killing 2 crew members

Emergency officials worked at the site of a head-on collision of two Union Pacific trains outside Hoxie, Ark. It took firefighters seven hours to put out a fire ignited by the crash.

Melissa Sue Gerrits/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via Associated Press

Emergency officials worked at the site of a head-on collision of two Union Pacific trains outside Hoxie, Ark. It took firefighters seven hours to put out a fire ignited by the crash.

HOXIE, Ark. — Two Union Pacific train crew members were killed and two others were injured when two freight trains collided head-on in northeast Arkansas early Sunday, State Police said.

The collision happened about 3 a.m. in Hoxie, a small town about 90 miles northwest of Memphis.

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A resulting fire took about seven hours to extinguish, according to Union Pacific spokesman Brandon Morris.

Authorities asked about 500 people within 1½ miles of the collision to leave their homes following the crash because of the fire, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office said.

Most were allowed to return home by midmorning, according to county Emergency Management Director Buddy Williams.

‘‘The fire involved diesel and also there was a tank car that ruptured and it contained an [unknown] alcoholic beverage,’’ Arkansas Department of Emergency Management spokesman Kendell Snyder said. He said there were no other leaks.

‘‘We don’t know the cause of the accident. We have no idea why these trains were on the same line,’’ Williams said, noting that no residents were hurt.

It is at least the second head-on collision involving Union Pacific trains since 2012. Two collided in the Oklahoma Panhandle that June, killing three crew members and injuring a fourth.

The names of those killed and injured on Sunday were not immediately released by Union Pacific.

‘‘We’re still conducting an investigation; we haven’t made any notifications,’’ Morris said. He did not know where the trains had originated or where they were headed.

It was not immediately known how many cars the two trains were pulling, Morris said.

Morris said the National Transportation Safety Board will take over the investigation.

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