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Freight trains collide near Roswell, one dead

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two freight trains collided head-on just after 6 a.m. Tuesday about 10 miles southeast of Roswell, killing one person, injuring another and derailing locomotives and freight cars.

Crew member Jesse T. Coburn III, 48, of Texico was pronounced dead at the scene by the Office of the Medical Investigator. The second crew member was transported to Lubbock, Texas for medical treatment and was listed in stable condition.

The initial investigation revealed two trains collided when one stationary train positioned northbound on the track was struck head-on by a moving southbound train, New Mexico State Police said in a news release.

The stationary train was unmanned.

An executive of Carlsbad-based Southwestern Railroad’s parent company said both victims were Southwestern employees and moving a 79-car train that struck a parked 12-car train that was stationary on the siding and had no crew on board.

The crew of the moving train applied its brakes to try to stop, but other specifics of happened and what caused the accident weren’t immediately known and would the subject of a federal investigation, said Bruce Carswell, vice president of operations of The Western Group, an Ogden, Utah-based operator of several short-line railroads.

“There was some braking,” Carswell said. “We have only very preliminary information at this point.”

Police said they were handling the scene as a hazmat incident due to diesel fuel spilling from the locomotives only. Six locomotives and three freight cars derailed in the crash. Certified hazmat teams were cleaning up and off-loading the remaining fuel from the locomotives.

State Police planned to secure the scene for National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The NTSB team is headed by investigator Ted Turpin and also includes NTSB Board Member Earl Weener, who will act as the team’s spokesman, the agency said in a statement. The agency plans to issue a preliminary report within 30 days, a spokesman said.

The moving train’s 79 freight cars included 27 cars loaded with sand and 52 empties, while the parked train had two cars carrying molasses and 10 empties, Carswell said.

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