Federal safety board to investigate Norfolk Southern after train derailments

The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday said it will launch an investigation into Norfolk Southern after the derailment last month of a train transporting dangerous chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio, and a series of other “significant accidents.”

The agency said it would be looking into the railroad’s safety practices and culture.

The announcement came just hours after the railroad said a conductor had been fatally struck at an Ohio steel facility.

“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.

The railroad on Monday announced plans to improve the use of detectors placed along railroad tracks to spot overheating bearings and other problems in response to the derailment in Ohio last month.

On Feb. 3, a 150-car train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, spurring thousands of residents to evacuate while the toxic chemicals were intentionally burned in order to prevent an uncontrolled explosion.

NTSB has said the crew operating the train got a warning from a detector but couldn’t stop the train before more than three dozen cars came off the tracks.

Many in the community are afraid and anxious about their exposure to the chemicals and are worried about the quailty of air and drinking water, despite assurances by government officials that they are safe. Some have reported lingering coughs or chest pain.

The railroad has launched a website, NSMakingItRight.com, to provide regular updates to the community. 

Norfolk Southern has been ordered by the EPA to clean up any contaminated soil and water, and pay all the costs. It must also reimburse it for the costs of cleaning homes and conducting weekly municipal water tests. 

Another train derailed earlier this month in Springfield, Ohio. There was no hazardous material on board.

The NTSB said it is also looking into a 2022 derailment in Sandusky, as well as an incident in the same year where a trainee conductor was killed and another injured when a freight train hit a steel angle iron protruding from another train.

On Tuesday, a Norfolk Southern train conductor was killed after being struck by a dump truck at an Ohio steel facility early Tuesday morning, the company said.

Louis Shuster, 46, was at the Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. steel facility around 1:30 a.m. when a truck with a load of limestone “collided with the front left side of the first train car,” a Cleveland Police spokesperson said. Shuster was outside the train when he was struck and later pronounced dead at the scene.

“We are grieving the loss of a colleague today,’ the railroad said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to his loved ones during this extremely difficult time.”

The company says it’s investigating the incident with the Cleveland Police Department as well as the facility and has been in touch with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

Lindsey Pipia and The Associated Press contributed.

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