A Canadian National Railway freight train transporting thousands of gallons of ethanol derailed and ignited at a railroad crossing near Sandy Hollow Road and South Mulford Road in Cherry Valley, Illinois near Rockford at about 8:30 p.m. Friday June, 19, 2009. The woman who died of thermal injuries was identified as Zoila Tellez, 41, of Rockford. She was the first car in line stopped at a railroad crossing. Two members of the train crew were not injured. Nine people were injured — two with serious injuries.
The local 9-1-1 center used their reverse 9-1-1 capability to call about 590 residents to notify people to evacuate their homes. They also gave safe instructions on how to proceed.
The train was pulled by two locomotives with 114 train cars. Eighteen of the cars derailed and 14 ignited. Some cars were still on fire Saturday at 1:00 p.m. The fire alarm for the train fire was raised to a six-alarm level with over 20 departments responding to the fire. About 70 cars were carrying ethanol, which is also known as ethyl alcohol and is the alcohol component of alcoholic beverages. Hydrous ethanol is 95% ethanol and 5% water can be used as fuel in most of the cars operating in the United States.
The glow of the fire could be seen as far away as Interstate 39 and Interstate 90.
The derailment is thought to have been caused by a washed out railroad bed under the rails caused by three to four inches of rain Friday.