After a train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed last month in East Palestine, Ohio, and a number of other “significant accidents,” the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced Tuesday that it will begin an investigation into Norfolk Southern.
The organization declared that it would investigate the railroad’s safety procedures and culture. Only a few hours earlier, the railroad had reported that a conductor had been fatally injured at a steel mill in Ohio.
“Given the number and significance of recent Norfolk Southern accidents, the NTSB also urges the company to take immediate action today to review and assess its safety practices, with the input of employees and others, and implement necessary changes to improve safety,” the agency said in a statement.
In reaction to the derailment in Ohio last month, the railroad made plans to increase the use of monitors along train lines to identify overheating bearings and other issues on Monday.
According to federal authorities, on February 3rd, 50 train carriages, 10 of which were carrying hazardous materials, derailed due to a technical problem with a rail car axle. There was vinyl chloride in five of the vehicles. Hundreds of residents evacuated due to the controlled release of poisonous gasses that Norfolk Southern carried out on February 6th to stop an explosion.
Officials told East Palestine residents on February 8th that they could safely go home, despite the reports of hundreds of dead fish in the Ohio river near East Palestine and residents complaining of headaches and illness since the derailment.
The NTSB has stated the crew got a warning from a detector but couldn’t stop the train before more than three dozen cars ran off the tracks.
Despite assurances from government officials that they are safe, many community members said they are fearful and nervous about their exposure to the chemicals and are concerned about air quality and drinking water.
There have also been a growing number of reports of health concerns from residents following the derailment. Some residents last month said medical professionals diagnosed them with bronchitis, lung issues, and rashes that doctors and nurses suspect link to chemical exposure.
The railroad has developed a website called nsmakingitright.com to give the neighborhood frequent information updates.
Norfolk Southern is required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to pay for all costs associated with cleaning up any contaminated soil and water. It must also pay back the EPA for the expenses incurred each week for testing municipal water and cleaning residences.
This month, a second Norfolk Southern train derailed in Springfield, Ohio. Reportedly there were no dangerous materials on board.
According to the NTSB, investigations are also being conducted into a derailment in Sandusky last year and an event in which a trainee conductor was killed and another conductor was hurt when a freight train struck a piece of steel angle iron sticking out from another train.
An Ohio steel factory dump truck also struck and killed a Norfolk Southern train conductor early on Tuesday, according to the firm.
Around 1:30 in the morning, Louis Shuster, 46, was at the Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. steel plant when a truck carrying limestone “collided with the front left side of the first train car,” according to a Cleveland police spokesperson. Shuster, who was struck while standing outside the train, was declared dead at the scene.
“We are grieving the loss of a colleague today. Our hearts go out to his loved ones during this extremely difficult time,” Norfolk Southern said.
The company said that it has contacted Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and that it is conducting an investigation with Cleveland police and the facility.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “NTSB in East Palestine” by NTSB.