CSX Train Carrying Hazardous Materials Derails in Newburgh, New York

Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

A CSX freight train carrying sulfuric acid and other hazardous materials derailed on March 7 when it hit a work vehicle that had gotten stuck on the tracks in Newburgh, New York, NBC News New York reports.

An equipment loader with a boom got caught on the tracks on River Road, near the line between Newburgh and New Windsor. The freight train struck the loader and derailed, according to Brendan Casey, emergency services commissioner for Orange County, New York.

An employee of Steelways Inc. told the Times-Herald Record newspaper that one of his co-workers was driving a forklift across the tracks when he heard the whistle of the approaching train. The crossing gates come down “really fast,” trapping the vehicle on the tracks, according to NBC News. The employee, Kevin Way, said, “I screamed for him to get out of the basket. . .There was no way he was going to get off (the tracks) at that point.”

CSX said the train had three locomotives and 77 freight cars. The train was traveling from Selkirk, New York to Waycross, Georgia, carrying sodium hydroxide, corn oil, cardboard, and glass, in addition to the sulfuric acid.

Parker Waichman notes the risk when a train accident or derailment occurs in a heavily populated area.

Investigation and Recovery Operation Underway

Casey, the Orange County emergency services official told NBC News that that the scene was “secure.” The roadway was closed and CSX, the Federal Railroad Agency, and various state agencies were on the scene, to investigate and get the train cars off the roadway. CSX said it will use a network of contractors to move the cars and will use specialized equipment, including heavy-duty cranes and bulldozers. CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle could not say when the recovery would be completed but said the CSX teams “will work continuously until the task is complete.”

Joni Armstrong, who was driving on that road at the time, saw the train in her rearview mirror. “It jumped the tracks and came onto the road and it looked like it was heading straight for the cars.” If the train had gone a few feet farther, Armstrong said, it would have hit a building. And if it had gone the other way it would have hit oil tanks.

The area where the train derailed is an industrial area, with oil and gasoline shipments frequently moving through. NBC News reports that authorities conducted a train derailment drill at almost the exact location last summer and this helped with Tuesday’s response. Casey said this location was chosen for the drill because it is the most populated area and would be the “worst case scenario for a derailment.”

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who has an office not far from the derailment site, said, “While we don’t yet know why the train derailed, we do know that outdated train cars barreling down the Hudson River carrying hazardous materials are literally a train wreck waiting to happen.” Maloney said we have to get “smarter” about transporting crude oil. Maloney, who is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has spoken out about rail safety. Maloney has called for the installation of positive train control on all trains.

Positive Train Control

Positive train control is a system to automatically slow and stop a train before certain types of accidents occur. PTC is designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive speed, trains moving onto sections of track where maintenance is taking place, or movement of a train through a track switch left in the wrong position.

Transporting hazardous materials by train has its risks. Train tracks often pass through heavily populated areas and a derailment or accident can spill or release toxic materials where they could endanger the population. Cleanup up and recovery after a freight train accident or derailment can be complicated and can shut down tracks and surrounding roads for some time. But there are also dangers in transporting hazardous materials by truck. Trucks share crowded roads with passenger vehicles and the disparity in size between trucks and passenger vehicles increases the risk of serious injury and death for those in smaller vehicles. A truck accident can also result in the release of hazardous materials.

A CSX train crash in Biloxi, Mississippi the same day killed three people on a bus hit by the train.

Legal Help for Those Harmed by a Train Accident

If you or someone you know has been injured or exposed to hazardous materials by a train crash or derailment, you should consult Parker Waichman to discuss your legal rights. To contact the firm for a free, no obligation case evaluation, fill out the contact form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).