Monday, August 21, 2006


In the early morning hours of January 18, 2002, a Canadian Pacific Railway freight train, loaded with tons of highly toxic chemicals, was headed south from Alberta, Canada to St. Paul, Minnesota. Just outside the small community of Minot, North Dakota, the freight train careened off negligently maintained tracks and several tanker cars carrying highly toxic anhydrous ammonia were punctured. The derailment caused the release of 250,000 gallons of toxic substance and sent deadly vapors across miles of quiet landscape.

Thousands of people were exposed to the lethal vapors in what was the world’s largest anhydrous ammonia spill. The victims were left with serious and permanent injuries to their eyes, skin, and respiratory systems. One victim died. To-date, however, none of those victims has been compensated.

Cases filed against Canadian Pacific by derailment victims have been remanded to the United States Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Cases that were in court or destined for courts were stalled when attorneys for CP Rail argued they were exempt from prosecution under a 1970 pre-emption law. Victims are now awaiting an Eighth Circuit Court decision regarding jurisdiction before any cases can proceed.

Four and a half years later victims of the 2002 Canadian Pacific Railway derailment and chemical spill say they're tired of waiting for their voices to be heard.

Tom Lundeen, Minot, told KXMCTV, "The railroad has put a stop to all of us. And so it's time to get some kind of grass roots organization and say we're not just going to sit here and take it."

Said Minot resident Kerry Beechie, "We're tired of what's going on with the railroad. Basically we're at a standstill but we don't feel that we should even be at this point. They need to take care of what they did."

Adds Jennifer Johnson, also of Minot, "Railroad safety is an issue throughout the whole United States. So we feel it is very, very important and we don't feel enough of the message has gotten out."

Organizer Tom Lundeen said at a rally in Minot the other day, “The country needs to know this can happen anywhere. It’s not just for us. We need to make our voices heard. We’re not just going to go away.”

And today they are joined by others in front of CP Rail Headquarters in Minneapolis all day in one more attempt at justice.

The following is from WCCO (Minneapolis).

Minot Derailment Victims To Demonstrate Monday

Victims of the 2002 train derailment and anhydrous ammonia spill in Minot, N.D., are planning a demonstration at the U.S. headquarters of the Canadian Pacific Railway in Minneapolis Monday.

The demonstration will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. outside the company's downtown office.

These residents are upset that their lawsuit against the railroad over the derailment have been stalled in the courts. Railroad attorneys say the residents' complaints are with the courts and not the railroad.

The derailment on the early morning of Jan. 18, 2002, sent a cloud of toxic anhydrous ammonia over the city, killing one man as he tried to escape the chemical, and sending hundreds of people to the hospital.

The National Transportation Safety Board later ruled that inadequate track maintenance and inspections were to blame, a finding the railroad disputed.

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