The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

September 1, 2008

Investigation of triple fatality crash, explosion near Medford is ongoing

Staff Reports

The investigation into a triple-fatality crash involving a fully loaded propane truck and Union Pacific train that left three men dead still is ongoing by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

The driver of a propane truck involved in Friday’s collision died Sunday evening in a Wichita, Kan., hospital.

Dennis Wayne Etherton, 52, was driving a propane truck which was struck by the train Friday near Medford in Grant County, according to Oklahoma Highway Patrol reports. The impact resulted in an explosion which killed the train’s conductor, Larry B. Williams of Oklahoma City, and the engineer, Richard D. Pendarvis of Anadarko. Etherton was ejected an unknown distance from the wreck and was burned over 50 percent of his body.

He was taken by Eagle Med to St. Francis Hospital in Wichita and admitted in critical condition.

The accident occurred about 9:20 a.m. on the railroad tracks adjacent to U.S. 81, three miles south of Medford. Etherton had just filled his tanker at the Conoco-Phillips LP facility underground storage site south of Medford before the accident. The truck reportedly was on the train tracks when the 76-car locomotive struck it.

Donna Kush, Union Pacific spokeswoman, said the two-person crew sounded the horn and began trying to stop the train 140 feet before impact while going about 37 mph.

U.S. 81 was blocked to northbound and southbound traffic from Medford to Pond Creek after the accident. It also knocked out electricity to much of Medford. Power was restored later Friday. The area was not evacuated, but the OHP cordoned off an area one mile around the crash site.

The liquid propane facility, located about 100 yards from the site of the wreck, received some damage, mostly from flying debris.

All that was left of the lead locomotive was a burned-out shell. The explosion blackened the first three cars and left a large crater in the ground at the site where it hit the propane truck.

The train was traveling from Wichita to Fort Worth, Texas, with a load of flour, wheat, possible metals and some flammable substances. None of the flammable substances leaked from the train cars, according to a railroad spokesperson.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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