FBI Investigating Train Derailment At Tempe Town Lake Bridge

By Jill Ryan, Alexandria Krusniak, Ron Dungan
Published: Thursday, July 30, 2020 - 7:17am
Updated: Thursday, July 30, 2020 - 6:28pm

Tempe Town Lake train derailed
Tempe Police Department
The train bridge over Tempe Town Lake caught fire and partially collapsed after a freight train partially derailed on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.

Early Wednesday morning, a train derailed over Tempe Town Lake, sparking a four-alarm fire.

No one was hurt, but a flammable chemical leaked out of a train car.

Ninety firefighters were on the scene, and Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir said Wednesday afternoon they were joined by the FBI Phoenix Office.

“So we involved the FBI because of a few things, one is that they are talented professionals in this type of an investigation, should something give rise to an understanding that there may be a criminal element. Also because they are trusted partners, and we wanted them on the ground early,” Moir said.  

She expects a multi-day and maybe a multi-week effort to clean up the area. And she says restoring structural integrity to the bridge will take some time.

Union Pacific said it doesn’t know when the bridge will be in use again. 

The rail line’s spokesperson Lupe Valdez, said the company does not have a cause of the derailment in Tempe. She said there isn’t a timeline for when the railroad will be ready to use again, and that they are waiting on local and federal authorities to complete investigations.

“Our intention is to fix this bridge, it is part of our infrastructure, it is important to the Phoenix area," said Valdez. "Once the investigations are completed, we will go in there and make our assessments and move forward to fixing this bridge.”

Valdez said that the same bridge was found in good standing during an inspection on July 9 after another derailment occurred in June.

Cleanup and repairs from the train derailment on the Salt River Union Pacific Bridge in Tempe could take weeks or even months.

A rail car with hazardous material was among those that derailed. That car leaked about 500 gallons before it was set upright and the leak stopped.

Tempe Fire Chief Greg Ruiz said at a press conference that it could have been worse, because the cars have a 25,000- to 30,000-gallon capacity.

Union Pacific Railroad was working to clear tracks until about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, when the work was delayed by an investigation. 

“Late last night we were asked to stop further work so that other investigations could take place and we are respectful of those investigations that are now taking place,” said Valdez.