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3News Investigates uncovers 6 NTSB probes into Norfolk Southern accidents, including 2 other toxic derailments

Reports show three of the accidents were isolated fatalities, one was a collision between trains, and two were derailments carrying hazardous materials.

CLEVELAND — Nearly three weeks after the toxic East Palestine train derailment, a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) preliminary report is providing new information about what caused the accident.

According to the report, the 149-car Norfolk Southern train crashed because of a failed wheel bearing on the 23rd rail car. Records show the bearing had been overheating for about 30 miles before the wreck, but the crew was not alerted to stop the train until a tracker detecting the piece of equipment at more than 250 degrees Fahrenheit above normal temperature.

Eleven of the freight train cars that derailed were carrying hazardous material that ignited. Due to the potential for an explosion, officials evacuated everyone within a one-mile radius and conducted a "controlled release" of the chemicals. Although residents were cleared to return home just days following the release, there continue to be health and safety concerns weeks later.

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A 3News investigation uncovered half a dozen other Norfolk Southern accidents investigated by the NTSB since 2006.

According to reports on the federal agency’s page, three of the accidents were isolated fatalities, one was a collision between two of the railroad’s trains, plus two derailments that required a release of hazardous materials.

In 2019, a railroad conductor was killed after being pinned between two rail cars while performing switch operations in Baltimore, Maryland, according to the report.

In 2016, another employee was killed in New Orleans, Louisiana, after being struck by one of Norfolk Southern’s trains. According to the report, the employee was on the main track during a dense fog advisory issued by the National Weather Service, resulting in low visibility.

In 2015, a Norfolk Southern trainee was killed in Petal, Mississippi, after being pinned between who tank cars that were being brought together on the tracks.

In 2012, a Norfolk Southern train derailed 17 cars in Columbus, Ohio. One of three of the derailed cars carrying denatured ethanol, a flammable and toxic chemical, was punctured and ignited a fire.

The cause of the accident was attributed to a broken rail on the tracks, according to the NTSB report.

A total of roughly 54,000 gallons of the denatured ethanol burned and forced evacuations of roughly 100 people in the area.

There were no fatalities as a result of the derailment. One witness suffered minor injuries.

In 2006, two Norfolk Southern trains collided in Lincoln, Alabama, after a traveling freight train moved off the main track and onto the siding track, injuring three crew members.

Three locomotives and 10 train cars total were derailed.

Another toxic derailment in October 2006 left chemicals burning for nearly two days in New Brighton, Pennsylvania.

According to the report, 23 car details near the end of the Beaver River railroad bridge.

Twenty of the train cars that carried denatured ethanol ignited, the report said.

Homes and businesses in a seven-block radius were evacuated for two days. There were no fatalities as a result of the derailed, according to the report.

An NTSB investigation determined the probable cause of the derailment was Norfolk Southern’s inadequate rail inspection and maintenance program, and the Federal Railroad Administration's inadequate oversight of the inspection process.

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