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Fireball soars when officials blow up derailed train cars

The Juab County Sheriff's Office shared this photo of the fireball after crews detonated derailed tanker cars.

By BRADY McCOMBS Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A massive fireball soared into the sky in the central Utah desert after officials blew up 11 derailed tanker cars containing propane and biodiesel.

The controlled detonation Sunday night was the safest way to deal with the explosive material, Juab County Undersheriff Brent Pulver said Monday about the decision by state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

derailed train cars fireball

23 Union Pacific train cars derailed, releasing an unknown quantity of propane, after one car overturned about six to eight miles south of Eureka, on Saturday, March 30, 2019. No passengers were onboard the train. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

The derailment occurred Saturday when 24 of the 165 cars of a Union Pacific freight train went off the tracks. One car landed on its side and was leaking propane.

The conductor and engineer were not hurt. The cause was not immediately known

Nine rail tankers carried propane and two had biodiesel.

Officials initially planned to move the rail cars but worried that leaking propane could cause an explosion and injure the crew.

Pulver posted photos online showing the fireball about 75 miles (120 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City, where the derailment occurred. The nearest town is Eureka, with less than 1,000 residents, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) away.

The fire burned for several hours.

“It was impressive. There is no other way to put it,” he said.

Crews were cleaning up the site and planning to bring in heavy equipment to move the rail cars that are damaged beyond repair, he said.