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This train, carrying segments of the space shuttle's solid rocket boosters, derailed after a bridge collapsed near Myrtlewood.
AP photo by Michael E. Palmer
This train, carrying segments of the space shuttle's solid rocket boosters, derailed after a bridge collapsed near Myrtlewood.

Freight train carrying shuttle rockets derails during trestle collapse

MYRTLEWOOD (AP)— A freight train carrying segments of the solid rocket boosters for the space shuttle derailed Wednesday after a recently repaired trestle over a boggy stretch of land collapsed, authorities said. Six people were reported injured, one critically.

NASA said it was not immediately known whether the equipment was damaged. But space agency spokesman Allard Beutel in Washington said the accident should not delay any shuttle launches.

The cause of the bridge collapse was under investigation.

"It appears when the train got onto the trestle, the trestle just gave way and sank to the ground," said Mike Rudolphi of Huntsville, an official with the boosters' manufacturer who went to the wreck site. "It's going to be a challenge to get it out of there."

The shuttle's twin boosters are 150 feet tall and consist of four propellant segments each. They are used during liftoff and the first two minutes or so of flight to help the spacecraft break free of Earth's orbit, and are then jettisoned into the sea, after which they are recovered, refurbished and reused.

Rudolphi said eight booster segments were on the train, which carried only the shuttle shipment. He said one booster overturned, along with two locomotives and a car carrying six attendants who were injured. He said the injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

But two of the injured were airlifted to DCH Regional Medical in Tuscaloosa, where one was listed as critical and one fair. Their names were not released.

Rudolphi said he expects the segments will be sent back to the manufacturer's Utah plant to be examined.

It was a leak of burning gas between two segments of a solid booster rocket that caused the Challenger explosion that killed seven astronauts in 1986.

The Alabama Emergency Management Agency said the four derailed train cars landed on their side on the ground in the woods next to the tracks, none of the cargo spilled, and there appeared to be no fire. The agency said the derailment occurred around 10:30 a.m.

Twelve of the rail cars remained upright. Rudolphi said it appeared those cars didn't overturn because the trestle — about 300 to 400 feet over a boggy stretch of land — sank evenly to the ground.

The derailment was in a remote stretch of track near Myrtlewood, a Marengo County town of about 200.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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