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Westminster, CO 2008

WESTMINSTER ( - Police believe tree debris was intentionally put on train tracks leading to a derailment on Monday night. 

"The house normally vibrates a bit when a train comes through but last night it shook."

According to investigators on the scene, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) train derailed at 10:36 p.m. on Monday at the intersection of Wadsworth Parkway and 95th Avenue.

Police said one of the train's four locomotives hit a large stump or part of a tree and pushed it 3,000 yards before coming to a stop.

Three employees from BNSF were on board, and one was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries, according to police.

Westminster Police say an officer had was called out to the train tracks around 8:30 p.m. on Monday because someone noticed the tree stump on the tracks. The officer removed the tree trunk, but investigators believe that someone then put that stump back on the track.

"We're convinced, as are Westminster Police, that the stump was placed on the track intentionally," said Steve Forsberg with BNSF.

Westminster Police Investigator Trevor Materasso said they quickly accounted for the 37 rail cars that were still attached. They were able to identify that the four locomotives were not transporting hazardous material. Firefighters from the Westminster Fire Department were also able to seal a small fuel leak, he said. 
"There's no hazardous material associated with this train. We checked the manifest and realized very quickly that we're dealing with things like lumber and building supplies, which relieves us," explained Materasso.

"It could have been a lot worse," he added. "We didn't have to evacuate any residents."

While they may not have been evacuated, nearby neighbors not only heard the derailment, but also felt it.

"So we heard the train, which is no big deal, we hear it all the time. I'm laying there thinking, 'Gosh that's pretty loud, that's not right.' Then thudding, screeching, just all awful and then the house started shaking and I'm like 'That's really not right,'" one neighbored explained.

Many of the residents in the area are used to the sounds of the train but Dave Herhager said, "The house normally vibrates a bit when a train comes through but last night it shook."

The derailment hasn't soured Herhager's feelings about the train.

"The train's a great neighbor. They come by a couple times a day and honk their horn and wave," he added.

Police are asking commuters to avoid the area while they continue to investigate and clean up debris. Northbound Wadsworth Parkway was down to one lane for most of Tuesday. 

A BNSF spokesman says while the line through Westminster was closed, trains were rerouted further east. 

BNSF is offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the person who put the tree debris on the track. They have a 24-hour tip line at 1-800-832-5452. Anyone with information and who wants to remain anonymous is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 720-913-STOP (7867).