Three freight trains derailed in northwest Indiana on Friday, leaving several mangled train cars on their sides along the tracks and forcing nearby residents to temporarily leave home as smoke billowed from the wreckage.
Two of six crew members were taken to the hospital after the accident that happened about 2:15 p.m. in an area of rural farmland northeast of Valparaiso, Porter County Sheriff's Sgt. Larry LaFlower said. He said their injuries were not considered life-threatening.
A CSX train that had been pulling mostly empty tankers of ethanol stopped on the tracks and was rear-ended by a second train, LaFlower said. A third train on parallel tracks then came up and struck the derailed cars.
CSX said in a statement that there appeared to be no significant leaks or spills of hazardous materials, but that all loaded and empty hazardous materials cars were inspected.
Officials evacuated 50 to 150 homes within about a mile of the tracks as a precaution, LaFlower said, in part because officials were uncertain about the source of the billowing black smoke that lingered for hours after the accident.
"It's unknown what is actually on fire. Once we get it out, we will be able to ascertain that a lot better," LaFlower said.
Residents were allowed to return to their homes by early Friday night, said Porter County Emergency Management Director Phil Griffith.
Hazardous materials teams and investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were on the scene along with dozens of firefighters and emergency personnel.
"There's a lot of mangled trains that are broke open," said Jim Sherrick, a first responder who lives nearby. "They're stacked on top of each other literally like somebody just took them and stacked them up like a child would have gotten upset with his model railroad and piled them up."
Associated Press writer Charles Wilson in Indianapolis contributed to this report.