A firefighter sprays foam on burning, derailed train cars Dec. 22, 2020, in Custer, Washington. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

A firefighter sprays foam on burning, derailed train cars Dec. 22, 2020, in Custer, Washington. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

Rail union: Sabotage caused Washington oil-train derailment

Seven train cars carrying crude oil derailed and five caught fire in Custer, Washington, last December.

Associated Press

SEATTLE — A rail union official reportedly told investigators that a fiery oil car train derailment north of Seattle late last year was caused by sabotage.

Seven train cars carrying crude oil derailed and five caught fire in Custer, Washington, on Dec. 22, 2020, sending a large plume of black smoke into the sky close to the Canadian border. There were no injuries in the derailment about 100 miles north of Seattle.

KUOW reports that an official with the union representing the driver has told authorities the derailment was not an accident.

“We know from the FBI investigation, from how trains operate, how trains work, how the couplers work, how the pin lifters work, that this incident was caused without a doubt by sabotage,” Korey McDaniel with the union’s safety team told BNSF Railway investigators, according to a hearing transcript obtained by the station.

The incident happened near where two people had been arrested a month before and accused of attempting a terrorist attack on train tracks to disrupt plans for a natural gas pipeline.

KUOW reports the cause of the derailment won’t be officially declared until the FBI, the Federal Railroad Administration, and the National Transportation Safety Board finish their inquiries.

Two people were on board the 108-car train headed from North Dakota to the Ferndale Refinery, owned by Phillips 66.

The month before the derailment federal authorities in Seattle charged two people with a terrorist attack on train tracks, saying they placed “shunts” on Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks. Shunts consist of a wire strung across the tracks, mimicking the electrical signal of a train. The devices can cause trains to automatically brake and can disable railroad crossing guards.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force had said there had been dozens of such cases involving BNSF tracks.

Home to five oil refineries, Washington state sees millions of gallons of crude oil move by rail through the state each week, mostly coming from North Dakota along with some from Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

FILE - In this June 19, 2020, file photo, people taking part in a Juneteenth march travel down 23rd Ave. in Seattle. President Joe Biden this week signed legislation establishing a new federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery – a move lawmakers made for Washington state earlier this year. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee last month signed a measure making Juneteenth a legal state paid holiday, starting in 2022. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Juneteenth becomes official state paid holiday in 2022

It also became a federal holiday when President Biden signed it into law this week.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee glances at an aide holding up an image of a visual slide being shown to viewers of a news conference, Thursday, June 3, 2021, in Olympia, Wash. Inslee announced that Washington will be the latest state to offer prizes to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Incentives will include a series of giveaways during the month of June including lottery prizes totaling $2 million, college tuition assistance, airline tickets, and game systems. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Judge dismisses Washington state governor recall petition

A group had alleged that Inslee’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic interfered with their rights.

With credit scores out, will insurers cut or hike your rate?

Lack of affordable housing squeezed buyers and drove up home prices across Snohomish County.

Cars make their way across US 2 between Lake Stevens and Everett as wildfire smoke makes downtown Everett barely visible on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Wildfire smoke: A burning health issue is getting worse

As the hazardous haze increases during fire seasons, it’s time to get serious and prepare, experts say.

Stunt rider dies attempting world record jump in Moses Lake

Alex Harvill crashed while trying to jump the length of a football field during an air show.

Mistrial halts case on minimum wage for immigrant detainees

Meanwhile, Washington is trying to close the Tacoma detention center entirely.

FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2020, file photo, police use chemical irritants and crowd control munitions to disperse protesters during a demonstration in Portland, Ore. City officials insist Portland is resilient as they launch a revitalization plan — in the form of citywide cleanups of protest damage, aggressive encampment removals, increased homeless services and police reform — to repair its reputation. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Officers resign en masse from Portland protest response unit

The move to disband came a day after a team member was indicted in an assault case from last summer.

FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2020, file photo, Staff Sgt. Travis Snyder, left, receives the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine given at Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, south of Seattle. Nurse Jose Picart, right, administered the shot. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday, June 17, 2021, announced a new COVID-19 vaccine incentive lottery for the state's military, family members and veterans because the federal government wasn't sharing individual vaccine status of those groups with the state and there were concerns they would be left out of a previously announced lottery. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
New vaccine lottery announced for military in Washington

Gov. Inslee said there were concerns they would be left out of a previously announced lottery.

Frank, a homeless man sits in his tent with a river view in Portland, Ore., on Saturday, June 5, 2021. Until a year ago, the city was best known nationally for its ambrosial food scene, craft breweries and “Portlandia” hipsters. Now, months-long protests following the killing of George Floyd, a surge in deadly gun violence, and an increasingly visible homeless population have many questioning whether Oregon’s largest city can recover. (AP Photo/Paula Bronstein)
Portland, scarred by unrest and violence, tries to come back

To outsiders, the Rose City’s reputation has gone from quirky “Portlandia” to violent dystopia.

The Everett Post Office is shown with a "now hiring" sign in 2019. (Sue MIsao / Herald file)
Washington unemployment rate dipped to 5.3% in May

Private sector employment increased by 7,000 jobs and government employment increased by 1,300 jobs.

A resident reported finding a dead Asian giant hornet near Marysville on June 4. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Dead ‘murder hornet’ found in Marysville, a first for county

It could be from a previous season, scientists say, because males don’t typically emerge this early.

In this photo taken Sept. 10, 2019, a detainee works in a kitchen area at the GEO Group’s immigration jail in Tacoma, Wash., during a media tour. After nearly four years of litigation and pandemic-related delays, a federal jury on Tuesday, June 15, 2021, began deliberating whether the GEO Group must pay minimum wage to detainees who perform cooking, cleaning and other tasks at the facility – instead of the $1 per day they typically receive. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Jury deciding if immigration detainees must get minimum wage

People being held at the detention center in Tacoma currently earn $1 a day for cooking and cleaning.