Ohio finds “preventable” and “tragic” derailment of train carrying dangerous chemicals Overheated wheel bearingThat was 253 degrees above the air temperature, National Transportation Safety Board officials said Thursday.
NTSP Issued a preliminary report Pep. 3 in East Palestine, west of the Pennsylvania State Line, providing clues as to what caused a 150-car Norfolk Southern Railway train to crash.
“I’m very sorry for the traumatic event you’re going through. It’s devastating,” NTSB chief Jennifer Homandy said during a press conference, speaking directly to the people of East Palestine.
“I can tell you this much: it’s 100% preventable,” he added. “We call things accidents. No accident. Every incident we investigate is preventable. So our hearts go out to you.”
According to the NTSB report, a flaw detector built into the railway sent a warning message to the train’s crew after registering the wheel temperature in car 23 as 253 degrees Fahrenheit above ambient.
According to Norfolk Southern’s policies, the engineer must stop the train for temperatures between 170 and 200 degrees.
The engineer hit the brakes, but before the train could come to a full stop, the 23rd car derailed, bringing the others with it, and an automatic emergency break kicked in.
Afterward, “the crew observed fire and smoke and notified Cleveland East dispatch of the derailment,” the report said.
The train was traveling from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania, and the previous detector en route registered a temperature of 103 degrees above ambient, which Norfolk Southern protocol deems not dangerous enough to stop.
NTSB officials said none of the crew members aboard the nearly 18,000-ton, 9,300-foot train showed any signs of a track defect or error.
“We have no evidence of any wrongdoing by the crew. During this deceleration, the wheel bearing failed.” Homandy said.
But the cause of the bearing failure will be the focus of the ongoing investigation, he added.
“You can’t wait for them to fail,” Homandy said. “Problems need to be caught early so a disaster like this doesn’t happen again.”
The final report is expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete.
Norfolk Southern could not immediately be reached to address the initial findings.
The NTSB report also explained why Norfolk Southern chose to contain and burn a chemical called vinyl chloride days after the derailment. Temperatures were rising inside a tank car carrying the liquid, the report said, raising the risk of the chemical undergoing a reaction and exploding.
In total, the train carried 115,580 gallons of vinyl chloride, a highly flammable carcinogen used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) packaging materials and other products.
During a controlled release, responders dug ditches to contain the liquid as it evaporated and burned.
The eastern Palestinian city has been wracked with fear and anxiety since the train derailed and burned.
The NTSB announced Thursday that it will conduct an investigative field investigation in the spring.
“The NTSB has one goal, and that’s security and making sure this doesn’t happen again,” Homandy said. “We don’t have hearings very often. It’s rare. But we do hear witnesses who are called.”
The panel’s full investigation will focus on “wheelset and bearing; tank car design and derailment damage; review of accident response including vinyl chloride venting and incineration; rail car design and maintenance practices and procedures; NS [Norfolk Southern] Defect detection application along the way; and NS Railcar Inspection Procedures,” the report said.
A union representing railroad workers said Wednesday that, in its view, Norfolk Southern has prioritized speed — through a system called “precision-planned railroading” that aims to keep trains moving — over safety.
“Somehow ‘we tried to warn you,’ just didn’t cut it,” the Transportation Communications Association said in a statement.
“Railroads increasingly rely on automated route detections to supplement human inspections,” the report continued. “Railroads have sought waivers after waivers to allow in-person inspections instead of personal temperature detectors.”
Since the derailment, state officials in Ohio have reported thousands of dead fish in nearby streams. Some locals Sued Norfolk Southern.
On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered the railway company to find and clean up contaminated soil and water. On Wednesday, the company said it would temporarily remove the tracks and excavate the soil underneath instead of remediating the soil as originally planned.
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said his office had filed a criminal referral over the derailment, while officials in Ohio signaled they might take legal action against the company as well.
Norfolk Southern continues to highlight the scale of its cleanup efforts and the funding it has committed to the East Palestinian Territory, including $3.4 million in financial aid to local families and $1 million in community assistance funding.
“We recognize that we have a responsibility, and we are committed to doing the right thing for the residents of East Palestine,” the company said in a statement. to a website It created.
“We are going to learn from this terrible accident and work with regulators and elected officials to improve railway safety,” it added.
The website cites EPA data from air and water samples that indicate concentrations of hazardous chemicals are below the agency’s safety limits.
But the full impact of the derailment could take years to feel, said environmentalist Erin Brockovich.
“Don’t sign anything from the Norfolk Southern Railroad. They are not your friend,” Brockovich told MSNBC from eastern Palestine on Thursday. “We can take it for granted at this point that municipal water is safe. But tomorrow will not be like that. These chemicals will degrade through the system over decades.
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