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Missouri highway buckles after rail cars hit overpass

May. 26, 2013 @ 10:22 AM

CHAFFEE, Mo. — A Missouri highway overpass that partially collapsed when rail cars smashed into one of its support pillars after a cargo train collision was about 15 years old and in good condition but just couldn’t withstand the impact, a sheriff said.

Seven people in two cars on the overpass were injured, none seriously, when two 40-foot sections of the overpass crumpled early Saturday.

“You’re driving down the road and the next thing you know the bridge is not there. ... It could have been really bad,” Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter said.  He said the bridge, though in good condition, couldn’t withstand the impact of the rail cars.

The collapse occurred after a Union Pacific train struck the side of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train at a rail intersection, Walter said. Derailed rail cars then struck columns supporting the Highway M overpass, causing it to buckle and partially collapse.

The derailed rail cars were loaded with scrap metal, automobiles and auto parts.

The National Transportation Safety Board has begun an investigation into the cause of the cargo train collision near Chaffee, a small town southwest of Cape Girardeau.