Tampering investigated in train derailment

? The FBI said Wednesday it was investigating the possibility someone tampered with rail line switches in southwest Kansas, causing a freight train to derail a day earlier.

Four westbound locomotive engines and six railroad cars owned by the Cimarron Valley Railroad left the tracks at 7:08 p.m. Tuesday in Montezuma, about 180 miles west of Wichita. Two engineers were hospitalized with minor injuries.

The initial investigation showed someone may have deliberately tampered with switches on the rail line, FBI spokesman Jeff Lanza said. That would be a violation of federal laws involving the nation’s transportation system.

No suspects had been identified as of Wednesday afternoon, Lanza said.

“Obviously if it’s an act of sabotage, then the FBI would continue to pursue it,” said William Seck, a senior agent with the FBI’s Wichita office. “If it turns out that it was a bent rail or something like that, then the FBI would no longer investigate.”

The train, which was headed toward Colorado, spilled about 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel from the locomotive engines, a load of telephone poles from one of the cars and a load of bean meal from another car. None of the spillage was considered hazardous, but a hazardous-materials unit from Great Bend, about 110 miles northeast of the crash, was assisting with the cleanup.

“All the damage has been confined to the railroad itself,” said Tom Hogan, Gray County’s emergency preparedness coordinator.

The derailment occurred just north of the Dodge City Cooperative Exchange in Montezuma. Merle Koehn, the location manager for the exchange, said the exchange had blocked off two of its grain bins and a truck route as a precaution.

“It’s not affecting us that much,” Koehn said. “It didn’t damage any of our facilities. It doesn’t have anything to do with us.”

Cimarron Valley Railroad spokesman Henry Hale sent word through Koehn that he was too busy to talk to reporters.