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DEVINE, Texas-Union Pacific Corp. will pay the $7.7 million in property and cargo damage caused by last week's head-on collision of two freight trains outside Devine, Texas.

Union Pacific will "assume the risk for the whole thing. It won't involve insurance coverage," a spokesman for the Bethlehem, Pa.-based transportation company said. Union Pacific owns both trains and the track on which the crash occurred.

Union Pacific has insurance for major catastrophes, the spokes-man added. Bermuda-based X.L. Insurance Co., which last year purchased RAIL, a mutual insurer owned by 12 transportation companies, including Union Pacific, confirmed that it writes coverage for the railroad, but provided no details (BI, Sept. 16). X.L. writes property and liability coverage for railroads.

The trains collided June 23, shortly after midnight near Devine, which is 30 miles southwest of San Antonio. Four men were killed and two injured in the collision and resulting diesel fuel fire. Of the four men killed, one was an engineer, one a conductor and two were transients illegally aboard the trains.

Another Union Pacific spokes-man said damage had been done to its equipment, including the destruction of four locomotives, as well as freight, train track and a bridge. Union Pacific hopes to salvage one locomotive damaged in the collision, he said. The northbound train carried mixed freight, and the southbound train carried auto parts, he added. The estimated $7.7 million in damage includes the damaged cargo.

Although the cause of the accident has not been determined, "human error" was both "likely" and "possible" in causing the collision, a spokesman said.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railroad Administration are investigating the accident. Both agencies sent investigators to the collision site in Texas and to Omaha, Neb., where a Union Pacific dispatching center is located. The trains were traveling between San Antonio and Laredo when they collided in an area without signals or a signal system. Such areas are common and known as "dark territory."

Engineers rely on dispatchers to guide them through dark territory, a spokesman from the Federal Railroad Administration said. "The Federal Railroad Administration is interviewing dispatchers and investigating the dispatcher facility in Omaha," the FRA spokesman said.

Two "event recorders" that recorded the communication between the northbound train's engineer and dispatcher were recovered at the crash site and carried by investigators to Washington, said a spokesman from the National Transportation Safety Board.

After rerouting trains throughout Monday, Union Pacific opened the San Antonio/Laredo route at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

Laredo, which is approximately 150 miles southwest of San Antonio, is a gateway for Union Pacific's freight to Mexico.

Approximately 10 Union Pacific Trains cover the route each day.