Crawford County train derailment sends multiple cars into Mississippi River

Officials say there's no current threat to the public, all crew are accounted for

A freight train derailed in Ferryville.
A BNSF Railway freight train derailed in Ferryville, Wis. in Crawford County on April 27, 2023, sending multiple cars into the Mississippi River. Photo courtesy of Austin Miller

A freight train has derailed near De Soto in Crawford County, sending multiple cars into the Mississippi River.

The derailment occurred at around 12:15 p.m. Thursday, according to BNSF Railway. All crew members had been accounted for and local first responders were on site.

Crawford County Emergency Management Specialist Marc Myhre told The Associated Press about 20 cars were involved in the derailment.

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The county’s emergency management director, Jim Hackett, said in an evening press conference that there was no threat to the public and no environmental hazard posed by the derailment. He said the train was carrying paint, lithium batteries and oxygen. Cars that floated down the river contain paint and have been secured and no cars containing batteries entered the water, Hackett said.

Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson was on the site shortly after the derailment. He said in a statement the immediate focus is the safety of those “involved and surrounding this incident.”

“WisDOT is working diligently to ensure that traffic is diverted to safe roads and bridges while we thoroughly evaluate this event,” he said.

Traffic on WIS 35 is being detoured via WIS 171, WIS 27 and WIS 82, according to the DOT.

Republican U.S. Rep. Derrick Van Orden said in a statement his staff was traveling to the site of the derailment Thursday afternoon.

“We have begun to coordinate with BNSF, FEMA, Wisconsin Emergency Management, the state and national Departments of Transportation, Crawford County officials, and Congresswoman Ashley Hinson (IA-2), whose District may also be impacted, to get answers on what occurred,” his statement read. “We will continue to monitor the situation and determine next steps.”

BNSF Railway was unsure when the track would be reopened, as it’s currently being blocked by the derailed cars in both directions.

It’s unclear if recent flooding in the area played a role in the derailment. BNSF said the cause of the incident is under investigation.

In addition to local and county authorities, the DOT is coordinating with the Office of the Commissioner of Railroads, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Emergency Management, BNSF, the Federal Railroad Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board in the response.