On Thursday, the National Transportation Security Board (NTSB) released a statement amid tremendous pressure to investigate and announce the cause of the Feb. 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. The derailment resulted in tons of toxic chemicals being released into the air, soil and local water supply.
The preliminary report notes that wheel bearings on the Norfolk Southern train locked and overheated, which led to the derailment.
The report notes that hot bearing detectors (HBD) detected the train had an issue identified as “critical.” Reportedly, several detection points noted the bearings reached more than 250 degrees above “ambient temperature.”
The superheated bearings caused a fire which forced the train to stop. According to the preliminary report, surveillance video confirms an axle-bearing issue contributed to the derailment.
An excerpt from the report reads:
“The function of the HBD is to detect overheated bearings and provide audible real-time warnings to train crews. Train 32N passed three HBD systems on its trip before the derailment.”
The train was carrying toxic chemicals. Contents of five cars were released into the environment by Norfolk Southern officials, who initiated a “controlled burn” to prevent a possible explosion. The massive plumes of toxic smoke in the air led to the short-term evacuation of almost half of East Palestine’s 4,700 residents.
Though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Gov. Mike DeWine (R) have declared the air and water safe for residents to return home, many are reluctant to do so, citing reports of animal die-offs in the area.
The report notes that “Investigators examined the cars which carried the toxic material on Feb. 21 and documented damage and collected evidence for lab analysis,” adding that the investigation “is ongoing.”
The report added: “Future investigative activity will focus on the wheelset and bearing; tank car design and derailment damage; a review of the accident response, including the venting and burning of the vinyl chloride; railcar design and maintenance procedures and practices; NS use of wayside defect detectors; and NS railcar inspection practices.”
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