CSX train derailment in West Virginia spills diesel into New River
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An empty freight train derailed when it hit a rock slide after turning a corner in a remote area near Sandstone, W.Va., spilling an unknown amount of oil into the nearby New River.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) and the train company sought to reassure residents of safety after the incident drew comparisons to last month’s derailment of a freight train in East Palestine, Ohio, that released toxic chemicals into the environment after fell down.
At a news conference Wednesday, Justice said the rocks the train hit came “from the mountain.”
“I know we’re all on heightened alert with what happened in East Palestine, Ohio, but I think that situation is under control,” he said.
The train’s operator, CSX, said four of the train’s locomotives — the cars that pull others along the track — derailed when they hit the rocks around 4:50 a.m. Another 22 cars also derailed after the crash, CSX spokesman Bryan Tucker said. . The train’s three crew members suffered non-life-threatening injuries. One has been released from the hospital, while the other two are still being treated, Tucker said.
The crash in West Virginia involved empty coal cars, according to CSX. “There were no hazardous materials being transported by this train,” a press release said. “The incident did not pose any risk to the public,” the company said.
Parts of the train caught fire, with at least one fuel tank falling into the river, Terry Fletcher, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said at a news conference. State officials have notified downstream public water systems, he said.
The train — which had more than 100 cars — turned a corner before crashing into the rock slide, Tucker said. The rocks were “the size of buses”, he said, confirming the accuracy of an image showing the rocks just before the impact.
The conductor could not have prevented the collision because most trains need a mile of track to stop, even when using emergency breaks, he said. Another train had crossed the same tracks just three hours earlier without incident, Tucker said.
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Emergency responders and West Virginia state officials were prioritizing containing the spread of diesel fuel in the area, Tucker said in a phone interview. After containing the fuel that had already spilled into the New River, officials will look to clean up any that may have seeped into the ground under the gravel, he said.
Encountering unexpected rock slides on railroad tracks is not common, Tucker said. Railroad officials typically inspect railroads up to three times a week for hazards, he said. The site of this week’s derailment had been inspected the day before the crash, Tucker said.