Minot community forever impacted by 2002 train derailment

Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 8:42 PM CST
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MINOT, N.D. – January of 2002 will be a time that is never forgotten in the Minot community. During the cold winter month, a Canadian Pacific train derailed in western Minot, killing one and injuring hundreds.

While the actual incident was brief, with much of the gas dissipating by the end of the day, the events would forever impact the Minot community and the families that lived closest to the disaster.

January 18, 2002 is a tough day for many Minot residents to remember.

“What I remember the most is trying to get through the night. We were put on a path of handed something and having to figure out how to deal with it in our own house, so we were trapped, couldn’t get out, and no one could get to us,” said Mike Elm, a resident of Tierrecita Vallejo when the derailment happened.

Elm and his family lived in the neighborhood that was directly impacted by the disaster.

He was trapped inside his home with his family for hours, without power, water, or help.

“It’s your worst nightmare because you are supposed to be there to protect your family, so not only could I not protect them, I couldn’t even protect myself,” said Elm.

His family sheltered inside a room for hours, using wet towels to protect their airways, before help came and evacuated them.

On the opposite side of the accident, the Rostads were awoken by a phone call from their neighbors.

“Getting out of bed and going out, we have a balcony up there, and it was like a wall was right outside our door. You could almost feel the air, it was so heavy and the smell was so strong,” said Jim Rostad, a Minot resident who lived about a mile away from the accident.

The Rostads were only a mile or two away from the incident but were lucky due to Mother Nature.

“There was actually not a lot of wind that night, but what breeze there was coming from the west, so it was blowing into town,” said Verla Rostad, wife to Jim Rostad.

One Minot man, John Grabinger, did pass away during the disaster, a close neighbor to Elm and his family.

“He had just started his life and I felt it was kind of taken away from him in a way, with trying to get a family and stuff. So much, I just feel for him, his wife, and his family to lose someone in that situation,” said Elm.

Elm said the effects of the night can still be felt today.

“I’m better around them, but there are moments. You get those moments, you’re by a train, or under one, if you’re under an underpass, and for a seconds, it just wakes you up a little bit,” said Elm.

No matter where you were in Minot that day, the disaster left its mark on the community.

Elm’s wife, Deena was pregnant during the disaster, and she named her son Bryson John Elm after John Grabinger.

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