Federal agency launches special investigation into Norfolk Southern after train derailments

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has announced it will conduct a special investigation into Norfolk Southern’s safety practices and culture following the recent derailments of its trains.

“Given the number and significance of the recent accidents in Norfolk Southern, the NTSB also urges the company to take immediate action today to review and assess its safety practices, with input from employees and others, and the make necessary changes to improve safety,” the NTSB said. wrote in a statement.

The company has been under fire since early February after a train carrying hazardous materials derailed in eastern Palestine, Ohio. The Ohio train derailment made national headlines after dangerous vinyl chloride gas was vented in some cars and burned to prevent an explosion. Residents of the village and surrounding areas have been concerned since the derailment that the burned gas will cause health problems and contaminate water and soil in the region.

Last week, a second Norfolk Southern train derailed in Springfield, Ohio, less than 10 miles from eastern Palestine. That train was not carrying any hazardous materials.

Another Norfolk Southern train derailed near Detroit three weeks ago. That train was carrying hazardous materials, but emergency services said none of the train’s carriages were damaged.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced in late February that it had placed Norfolk Southern under a binding injunction, forcing it to remain in eastern Palestine and clean up the aftermath of the disaster under penalty of a fine. The federal agency said Norfolk Southern would have to foot the bill for the cleanup, and if it didn’t stick to its plans, the company would be charged three times as much for the work to be done.

The company announced Monday that it planned to revamp its bearing detector network along rail lines in the wake of the disaster in eastern Palestine.

Freight train derailment in Ohio

(Springfield-News Sun)

According to preliminary NTSB reports, the train derailed in eastern Palestine after a wheel bearing overheated and failed. Bearing detectors are placed along railway lines and monitor the temperature of the parts to prevent such accidents. The NTSB said it is investigating whether more detectors would have alerted train crews to the overheated bearing sooner.

NTSB Director Jennifer L. Homendy said at a news conference that the derailment in eastern Palestine was “100 percent preventable.”

While train derailments across the country have recently made headlines in the aftermath of the disaster in eastern Palestine, the events are not particularly uncommon. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the U.S. experiences an average of 1,760 train derailments each year.

In the past two months, three trains have derailed in Ohio, one near Detroit, one in Nebraska and one near Houston.

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