ABC NEWS - EMILY SHAPIRO
The remains of two of the three railroad employees who went missing during a fiery crash between freight trains have been recovered, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway said today.
The third missing employee is still unaccounted for, the railway said. Recovery efforts for the missing employee are continuing, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Four BNSF employees were involved when the two trains collided Tuesday morning near Panhandle, Texas.
"They just went face to face with each other and collided," witness Mason Maas told ABC News. "I've never seen a crash like this."
While three employees were missing Tuesday, the fourth employee was found and hospitalized in stable condition, said Patrick Buckley of the Northwest Texas Hospital in Amarillo.
Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Dan Buesing told ABC News earlier today that all three missing employees were presumed dead. He said crews moved from a rescue effort to recovery operation Tuesday night.
“The entire BNSF family is terribly saddened by this event and we extend our deepest sympathy and thoughts to the families and friends of the employees involved in this incident," Carl Ice, President and Chief Executive Officer of BNSF Railway, said in a statement today. "This is an extremely difficult time and our entire organization grieves for the loss of our colleagues."
Buesing said today the cause of the crash remained under investigation.
Rail Safety Investigator Richard Hipskind of the NTSB - which is overseeing the investigation - said today the collision caused at least 1 of the trains to derail. The investigation will focus on mechanics, equipment, human operator error, data recorders and witness reports, Hipskind said.
BNSF said in a statement Tuesday: "Our investigation is in the very early stages but based on the limited information we have reviewed, it appears that this is the type of incident that positive train control technology (PTC) is intended to prevent. This is why we have been aggressively deploying PTC across our network. While sections of the track operated by the eastbound train involved in this accident have PTC installed and are being tested, the section of track where the incident occurred will be installed later this year."