PRINCETON, Ind. (WTHI) - On June 17th, 2018 Princeton fire chief Mike Pflug was enjoying a relaxing fathers day. Little did he know he was starting what would become a forty plus hour shift.
Pflug explains, "We felt the house shake and about two minutes later the neighbor comes beating on the door, all panicked, said they had seen an explosion."
23 cars derailed, six were hauling hazardous materials, and two caught fire. Thirty-two people were evacuated and US 41 was shut down.
Pflug says, "I was fortunate that I had a lot of support, I had a lot of help, I had a lot of people step forward to help."
Help came from the local, state, and national levels. Making sure no one got hurt and the tracks were fixed in just days.
The Federal Railroad Administration's report details the events of June 17th. According to the report, an inspector cleared the tracks during an inspection earlier that day. Between the time of the inspection and the accident an area of track had become "thermally misaligned."
The train's engineer reported this as the train went over. On the radio, the dispatcher asked if they had cleared the misalignment.
The engineer announced "emergency emergency emergency" and then said, "I think it is bad."
The FRA believes a loaded coal train came through the area during the hottest time of day just an hour and a half earlier. They believe this caused the thermal misalignment which caused the derailment.
Chief Pflug credits the quick work of his crew and those involved with making sure no one was hurt.
Pflug says, "I couldn't be more proud of the guys on this department and gal. They, they stood up and did the job that they had to do."