Train hauling hazardous material hits stranded van near Rogersville

Jeff Bobo • Dec 4, 2017 at 6:30 PM

ROGERSVILLE — No one was injured early Saturday when a Norfolk Southern Railroad train struck a van that was stranded on the Burem Road crossing just south of Rogersville.

The crash had the potential to be catastrophic because the train was hauling hazardous materials south toward Bulls Gap.

The incident occurred at about 5 a.m. Saturday when a van with a flat tire was traveling on Burem Road headed toward Rogersville and got stuck while trying to cross the railroad tracks.

Hawkins County Emergency Management Agency Director Gary Murrell noted that aside from being dark, Saturday morning was extremely foggy and visibility was almost nil.

"They came down the road driving on a flat, and drove out onto the railroad tracks and got their van hung, and lo-and-behold here comes a train," Murrell told the Times-News. "They were out there trying to get it off the track, and one of the occupants of the van decided he would walk out the tracks and try to flag this train down. That didn't work, so (the other occupant) had to get off the tracks in a hurry."

Murrell added, "The train hit the van and knocked it about 150 feet down the tracks. It didn't damage the train, but when we got there the passenger side door of the van was hanging on the front of the train."

Train versus vehicle collisions have been known to cause derailments, which in this case would have been a major problem due to the content of the tanker cars behind the engine.

Murrell said the exact content wasn't revealed. Emergency responders were told that the cargo in the tankers was “hazardous material.”

Burem Road was blocked for about 90 minutes after the crash for cleanup.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol investigated the accident. No other information was available as of Monday evening.