Residents home after train derails

Saturday, June 1, 2002

POTTERVILLE, Mich. -- This town's 2,200 residents were allowed to return home Friday for the first time since Memorial Day, when a train carrying propane derailed on nearby tracks, authorities said.

However, Eaton County Sheriff Rick Jones said that anyone other than residents would be prohibited from entering Potterville for 36 hours to prevent looting.

Laura Warren, 25, was returning home after spending the week with her mother in nearby Dimondale.

"It hasn't been that bad," she said. "I'd rather come home to a place that's safe."

Residents were allowed to return after clean up crews removed four damaged tank cars filled with highly explosive liquid propane. Crews spent the week burning off propane from one of the cars, which was punctured, and pumped propane from the other cars into tanker trucks.

Progress was slowed by thunderstorms in the area on Wednesday and Thursday. Workers also had to leave the derailment site several times throughout the week when the level of propane vapor grew dangerously high.

Canadian National Railway Co., which owns the train, has been paying for food and hotel rooms for residents. The cause of the derailment remained under investigation; the railway company has said it must finish the cleanup before it can conduct a full probe.

The Federal Railroad Administration is also investigating.

Potterville is in south-central Michigan about 90 miles west of Detroit.


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