NTSB Releases Preliminary Report on East Palestine Train Derailment

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a preliminary report into the toxic train derailment earlier this month in East Palestine, Ohio.[0] The report states that after the train stopped, the crew observed smoke and fire and notified dispatch of a possible derailment.[1] After obtaining authorization from the dispatcher, the crew applied the handbrakes to the two railcars at the front of the train, disconnected the locomotives, and pushed them away from the railcars by roughly one mile.[2] Emergency personnel arrived at the scene of the derailment and initiated their response procedures.[3]

The report indicates that the train was traveling at 47 mph, 3 mph below the authorized speed of 50 mph, and the suspect wheel bearing was recorded as being above ambient temperature three times before the derailment.[0] The engineer had already applied the train's brakes and increased braking after the alert, and an automatic braking system was also initiated, allowing the train to stop and response efforts to begin.[4]

When the train passed the last detector, it transmitted an audible alarm message instructing the crew to slow and stop the train to inspect the hot axle.[5] The NTSB is continuing to investigate the wheelset and bearing, the design of the tank cars themselves, the accident response, including the venting and burning of the vinyl chloride, railcar design and maintenance procedures and practices, Norfolk Southern’s use of wayside defect detectors, and Norfolk Southern’s railcar inspection practices.[4]

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited East Palestine on Thursday for the first time, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Rep. Bill Johnson of Ohio, and Michael Regan, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, drank the water in East Palestine in an attempt to show it’s safe.[6] At the Health Assessment Clinic in East Palestine, the Ohio Department of Health is increasing the range of services offered. These services include taking vital signs and being seen by a physician for a medical examination, all of which are provided at no cost.[1] A mental health specialist and toxicologist are available.[1]

At 1 p.m., Jennifer Homendy, Chair of the NTSB, and Robert J. Hall, Director of the NTSB's Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials, will be holding a press conference at the NTSB headquarters to present the report.[1]

0. “Video showed wheel bearing was in “final stage of overheat failure” before Ohio train derailed, report says” CBS News, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ohio-train-derailment-ntsb-report-wheel-bearing-final-stage-overheat-failure

1. “Report released on derailment investigation; USDOT to assess railroad safety” WJW FOX 8 News Cleveland, 23 Feb. 2023, https://fox8.com/news/investigation-report-on-train-derailment-to-be-released/

2. “Ohio train derailment: Operators warned of overheated axle moments before wreck: NTSB” Fox News, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/us/ohio-train-derailment-operators-warned-overheated-axle-moments-before-wreck-ntsb

3. “NTSB Preliminary Report: What happened before train derailment?” WKBN.com, 22 Feb. 2023, https://www.wkbn.com/news/local-news/east-palestine-train-derailment/ntsb-to-release-preliminary-report-in-east-palestine-train-derailment/

4. “East Palestine, Ohio: Crew tried to slow train before toxic wreck – NTSB” BBC, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-64749041

5. “Overheating wheel detected too late to stop Ohio train before it derailed” POLITICO, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/02/23/east-palestine-train-derailment-preliminary-report-00084151

6. “Axios interview: Sen. J.D. Vance sees “our people” hurt by derailment” Axios, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.axios.com/2023/02/23/jd-vance-ohio-train-derailment-interview

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