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Containers secured to shore after Wisconsin train derailment

Recovery work is shown at the scene of a train derailment along Hwy 35 Thursday, April 27, 2023 in Crawford County just south of DeSoto, Wis. A freight train derailed along the Mississippi River in southwestern Wisconsin Thursday, possibly injuring one crew member and sending two cars into the water, officials said. (Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Crews have secured two container cars that began floating away in the Mississippi River after a freight train derailed in southwestern Wisconsin, officials said Friday.

Thursday’s derailment in Crawford County involved two of the train’s three locomotives and 10 cars carrying a variety of freight, including paint and lithium-ion batteries, said BNSF Railway spokesperson Lena Kent. Four railway employees received minor injuries.

Kent said officials are still investigating what caused the derailment near De Soto, a village located about 85 miles (137 kilometers) northwest of Madison.

She said the derailment blocked the main railway track in both directions and sent the two cars into the river. Neither contained hazardous materials but an absorbent boom was put in place to reduce the possibility of pollution, she said.

Kent said Friday morning that the two container cars had been removed from the river but she later said that was not the case; that those containers had been “secured to the shore” and are not floating in the river.

Marc Myhre, a specialist with Crawford County Emergency Management, said two containers had been tied to a group of trees along the river to prevent them from drifting farther south. He said BNSF had a barge headed to the site Friday afternoon to lift the cars out of the river.

The Federal Railroad Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation that regulates safety across the nation’s railroads, tweeted that it was sending a team to the site to gather information and help local emergency workers. Nearly 30 state, local and public agencies responded to the derailment, according to Crawford County Emergency Management Director James Hackett.

Rock was being brought to the scene from nearby quarries to build a platform for providing officials with access to remove the train, said De Soto Fire Chief Chris Mussatti.

After the derailment about 12:15 p.m. Thursday, four BNSF crew members were taken to a hospital and treated for minor injuries and released, Kent said.

Gov. Tony Evers visited the derailment site Friday, surveying the scene from the air before he spent about two hours on the ground, getting an update from officials and visiting with emergency personnel, said his spokesperson Britt Cudaback.

Evers said Thursday that he was getting regular updates from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the Department of Natural Resources and state emergency management officials.

Cudaback said Thursday that it wasn’t clear if the derailment caused any environmental contamination. Email messages were left Thursday and Friday with a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Thursday’s derailment came almost three months after a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. Officials there ordered a widescale evacuation of residents and decided to release and burn toxic vinyl chloride from five tanker cars to prevent a catastrophic explosion.

Hundreds of people also had to evacuate in Raymond, Minnesota, last month after a BNSF train hauling ethanol and corn syrup derailed and caught fire.