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Iowa Authorities Investigating Train Sabotage

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(MENLO, Iowa) -- Authorities are on alert after someone apparently attempted to derail a train carrying highly flammable ethanol near the west-central Iowa city of Menlo in recent days.

“Someone could have been killed," Dennis Miller, the CEO of Iowa Interstate Railroad, told ABC News. “Ethanol won’t explode,” he said, “but it will burn.” The trains running along those tracks, he said, often carry flammable ethanol, which they load at a nearby ethanol plant.  Each train can carry up to 30,000 gallons of ethanol, “And 30,000 gallons would burn for a long time.”

Miller said a lock was cut off a track switch and track was “gapped open” about two inches. A black bag was used to cover the switch signal so the tampering would be harder to notice, he said.

Miller said the switch tampering, and the creation of the gap in the tracks, clearly indicate to him that someone was trying to derail one of the 130-car trains that were running the track last Sunday.

The railroad’s chief operating officer, Mick Burkart, said a train did successfully cross the track at the damaged switch Sunday night, but the crew noticed that something was wrong with the track and switch. They reported it to the Iowa railroad, and all traffic was shut down on the track.

The FBI is now investigating, but a Bureau source told ABC News that early indications are that the incident is not a terrorism-related.

Following the killing of Osama bin Laden in May, investigators discovered a handwritten journal kept by the al Qaeda leader that specifically noted an interest in derailing trains.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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