NTSB: Train Going Below Speed Limit, No Noticeable Track Problems

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Columbus Hazmat crew examines burned Norfolk Southern tanker car that derailed in north Columbus on Wednesday morning(Photo: Tom Borgerding/wosu)
Columbus Hazmat crew examines burned Norfolk Southern tanker car that derailed in north Columbus on Wednesday morning(Photo: Tom Borgerding/wosu)

National Transportation Safety Board Member Earl Weener says the train that partially derailed and exploded in north Columbus  early Wednesday appeared to have a clear signal when it went into the area where cars derailed.

 Lincoln Park, a former housing project on the far south side of Columbus.

And Weener says preliminary reports show speed was not a factor.

“At this point, the speed was where it was supposed to be going into the curve and there were no apparent anomalies that the crew noticed coming up on that curve.”

Weener says it also appears the track had been inspected recently.

The derailment caused at least three cars each carrying 30,000 gallons of ethanol to explode. Those cars were still burning early Thursday.

 Lincoln Park, a former housing project on the far south side of Columbus.

Weener says the federal agency has 12 people in Columbus trying to figure out what happened.

Lead investigator Cy Gura says they’re now re-railing the train cars that can be placed back on the track.

“As the cars are being re-railed, we are looking for evidence,” Gura said.

“We are going to forensically look reconstruct the rails and the same with the cars and put them off to the side. Once they are off to the side, then they can start building the track so I am going to venture a guess that the track will probably be built within a day or two.”

Railroad owner Norfolk Southern says until investigators are finished, trains will be diverted through another part of Columbus.

Weener expects his team will be in Columbus, investigating the derailment, for about a week. He says this investigation could take up to 18 months to complete.

“We are just beginning the fact finding phase and so we are just gathering information.

“Very briefly, an investigation of this sort can take a year or 18 months before we come to a probable cause and recommendations.”

The derailment caused some cars containing ethanol to explode. That forced evacuations of homes and businesses within a one mile radius. Most of the people who were evacuated after the explosion Wednesday have been allowed to return to their homes.

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