Ohio train crash: Crew had little warning before wreck

East Palestine, Ohio –

A crew member who was driving a derailed freight train in East Palestine, Ohio, received little warning before dozens of cars derailed, and there were no indications the crew had done anything wrong, a federal investigator said. Officials released a preliminary report on Thursday, reporting to the scene of the wreck that prompted the release of toxic chemicals and evacuation.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was the first to visit the crash site and shot former President Donald Trump, who had visited the previous day and criticized the federal government’s response to the train derailment. Their exchange is the latest sign that the East Palestinian shipwreck has become a hot political issue, prompting condemnation from the head of the National Transportation Safety Board.

“Enough about politics. I don’t understand why this has become so political,” Safety Commission Chair Jennifer Homendy said at a briefing in Washington, D.C. Thursday. is a community in distress.This is not a political issue.This is about addressing their needs and concerns.”

The NTSB report, summarizing the facts investigators have gathered so far, says the crew did not know the train was in trouble until an alarm sounded just before the train derailed. .

The report said the engineer slowed down and stopped the train after receiving a “significant audible warning message” indicating an overheated axle. Three crew members later saw fire and smoke and warned to go, the report said.

“There is no evidence that the crew did anything wrong,” Homendy said, adding that a plan to be implemented in East Palestine this spring as authorities try to find out the truth about what caused the derailment and build consensus on how to prevent it. has announced a rare research field hearing. A similar shipwreck.

Investigators said the temperature of the failed wheel bearing rose 215 degrees over 30 miles (48 km), but the temperature threshold set by railroad company Norfolk Southern to sound an alarm was not reached just before the wreck. I didn’t.

Investigators said the train was traveling about 47 miles (75 kilometers) below the 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour speed limit.

An outside expert who has seen the report said the system appeared to be working as designed, from the spacing of the hot bearing detectors along the track to the operation of the sensors.

“There’s nothing in the NTSB report that surprises me,” said Dave Clark, former director of the University of Tennessee Center for Transportation Studies. I don’t see anything to criticize.”

According to Christopher Burkan, director of the University of Illinois Center for Railroad Transportation Engineering, the temperature sensors on the Norfolk Southern train are spaced 10 and 20 miles (16 to 32 kilometers) apart. industry.

He said the detector did not notify the train crew of rising bearing temperatures unless an action threshold was reached.

“There’s nothing wrong here, but I don’t know,” Barkan said.

Homendy said investigators will consider whether industry safety standards, such as high temperature alarm thresholds and sensor spacing, need to be changed to prevent similar derailments.

Norfolk Southern said the NTSB report indicated that the heat detectors worked as intended and that the train crew was operating “within the company’s rules.” Nonetheless, the company said it “needs to learn as much as possible from this event” and “develop practices and invest in technology that will help prevent incidents like this in the future.”

A freight train derailed in an eastern Palestinian suburb near the Pennsylvania border contained 11 vehicles carrying dangerous goods. Villagers evacuated amid growing fears about the smoldering wreckage potentially exploding.

In an attempt to avert an uncontrolled blast, officials intentionally set five vehicles on fire by releasing toxic PVC, sending flames and black smoke into the sky. That left some people questioning the potential health effects, despite authorities claiming they were doing their best to protect people.

Buttigieg, who had been criticized for not having come to East Palestine when the NTSB released its preliminary findings, toured the crash site and criticized the Biden administration’s response to the February 3 derailment, which Trump portrayed as indifferent. defended the response. And he “betrayed”.

Buttigieg told reporters that if the former president (and current Republican presidential candidate) feels strongly about stepping up his commitment to railroad safety, “one thing he can do is keep track of what happens under his watch.” “It’s about showing support for overturning the deregulation that was in place,” he said.

White House Press Secretary Carine Jean-Pierre condemned “a political stunt that we’re seeing from the other side,” but didn’t say if Democratic President Joe Biden’s visit was underway.

Another Biden administration official, EPA Director Michael Regan, has been to Eastern Palestine on numerous occasions, most recently on Tuesday when the EPA ordered Norfolk Southern to pay for cleanup costs.

With heavy machinery rumbling in the background, Buttigieg accused Norfolk Southern and other freight rail companies of resisting the regulation, saying, “Hold them accountable and keep other railroads safe.” I will hold you accountable for the record,” he said. He pressured Congress to act.

Heather Babel, who lives two blocks from the derailment site, said she was relieved that government officials finally showed up.

“We didn’t realize that, and we need that attention. They should have been here all along,” Bable said.

After thousands of residents lined the streets to welcome President Trump in a torrential rain Wednesday, Mr. Buttigieg’s welcome was decidedly quiet, with little fanfare in the village of just under 5,000 residents. In his 2020, Mr. Trump won nearly 72% of the vote in this Republican-dominated region.

Democratic Rep. Chris Delgio, whose Pennsylvania district borders the derailment site, has called on Norfolk Southern to expand the boundaries of the geographic zones it provides financial support and testing. He argued that the current zone excludes many of the affected Pennsylvania residents and businesses, and the company should go beyond it to clean up to 30 miles (48 kilometers) of soil and water. said.

“Norfolk Southern has shown no commitment to rebuilding the trust that has been lost in our community,” Delgio wrote in a letter to the CEO of Norfolk Southern. By providing, “will help the company restore the sense of security destroyed by the Norfolk Southern derailment and its aftermath.”


Rubinkham reported from northeastern Pennsylvania and Malvihill reported from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Associated Press writers Julie Kerr-Smith of Columbus, Ohio, and Chris Megerian and Hope Yen of Washington, DC contributed to this report.

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