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WDAY: The News Leader

Published January 18, 2012, 10:30 PM

10 Years Later: Couple recalls horrors of Minot train derailment

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - A decade ago an unimaginable tragedy struck the city of Minot. A train derailed, sending a deadly chemical into homes, as people slept. The wounds are still fresh for many victims of the horrific crash that stunned the state.

By: Travis Skonseng, WDAY

A decade ago an unimaginable tragedy struck the city of Minot. A train derailed, sending a deadly chemical into homes, as people slept. The wounds are still fresh for many victims of the horrific crash that stunned the state.

The Canadian Pacific derailment killed one man and forced hundreds of homeowners to evacuate. Tonight, we meet two survivors, still coping with the terror on the tracks.

Liz Rogness – Minot Native: “It kind of replays like a movie in your mind.”

Ten years to the day, the scary scenes from that horror movie continue to haunt Minot native Liz Rogness.

Liz Rogness: “And just kind of like your life flashing before your eyes. Really thinking, we're not going to make it. The next morning, there's going to be cars full of people and families that are going to be found dead.”

The Fargo woman quickly rewinds to that deadly day as if it were yesterday, her family of six fleeing in the middle of the night.

Liz Rogness: “And I remember that so vividly, just kind of watching your parents. Just kind of seeing their desperation of kind of the weight of the world and their kids on their shoulders.”

Thirty-one of the 112 rail cars went off the tracks January 18th, 2002. Five tank cars carrying anhydrous ammonia ruptured, sending a powerful chemical over the city.

Cody Rogness: “The cloud kind of hung down in the valley.”

Liz Rogness: “So we all held wet wipes over our faces.”

The cloud so thick, you couldn't see in front you. Liz's family became trapped in their vehicle.

Liz Rogness: “Are we just going to die here? I remember really truly feeling what's going to happen if my parents die. Am I going to have to drive the vehicle? Am I going to be responsible?”

They patiently prayed for help, all along the chemical seeping into their bodies, burning their eyes and making it hard to breathe. The 16 year-old feared the worst.

Liz Rogness: “So just thinking in that car of, ‘okay am I ever going to get married? Am I ever going to have kids? Like is this really going to be my last day.’”

But that would not be the case. Liz and her family made it to a neighbor’s home. A couple years later, she'd meet the love of her life, Cody. Ironically, they married in 2010, with a picture in front of train tracks.

Cody Rogness: “It's something that really did scar her family.”

Liz Rogness: “It really brought our family together and made us stronger and really made us realize that throughout it all God was protecting us.”

Liz still gets dry eyes and has respiratory problems. Doctors aren't sure why that is or what future health troubles she may have. Six thousand people filed claims. The railroad settled some lawsuits.

In 2008, a federal judge awarded $7 million to about 4,000 victims who didn't file individual suits.

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