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Train Carrying Ethanol Derails, Sets Off Blaze

June 23, 2009

ROCKFORD, IL --- A number of cars from a Canadian National Railway Co. train smoldered here over the weekend, as federal investigators continued to probe whether standing water from heavy rains factored into a Friday night derailment that left one woman dead and three others injured, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Zoila Tellez of Rockford died trying to flee her car, which was stopped at a railroad crossing when the train carrying ethanol derailed. Three passengers got out and ran, but Tellez collapsed 20 feet behind her vehicle and died, Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia told the Tribune.

"When everything went to hell and debris started flying and everything, she got out of her car and started to run away from it and that's when she got caught in the fire," said Fiduccia.

A 17-year-old female passenger was in critical condition in the Stroger Hospital burn unit after being flown by helicopter Saturday. Another remained in a Rockford hospital. 

The train was en route to Sewaren, N.J., when 18 cars derailed about 9 p.m. on Friday, June 19, and set off the deadly fire. According to the Oil Price Information Service, 78 of the train's 114 cars were filled with ethanol. The fuel originated from a former VeraSun plant in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The plant is now owned by Valero. 

National Transportation Safety Board officials said an investigation into the accident could take up to a year. 

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