YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A new report by CBS News is shedding more light on what may have led to the train derailment in East Palestine.
Citing unnamed employees, CBS News reports that the same train broke down at least once, two days prior to the derailment in East Palestine. The employees told CBS News that they were concerned about the size of the train — saying its weight and length were excessive and contributed to the breakdown.
CBS News is not naming the employees that it spoke with, citing a fear of retaliation from Norfolk Southern.
The report also cited a national legislative director for a union that represents Norfolk Southern workers who questioned whether the car had been properly inspected due to a strategy the company had adopted that was said to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
In response to the CBS report, a spokesperson with Norfolk Southern released the following statement:
“The weight distribution of this train was uniform throughout, so to state that the weight was mostly in the rear is simply false. In addition to a uniform weight distribution, this train ran with a distributive power unit (a mid-train locomotive) which helps manage the dynamic forces of the train and reduces occurrences of broken knuckles, etc.
Lastly, the makeup of this train changes daily, with the number of cars, loaded or unloaded varying. Assigning a “reputation” to a train that fluctuates by thousands of tons on a regular basis is inaccurate. More importantly, this train previously ran as one longer and heavier train before being split into two shorter, lighter trains in the past few months as part of a regular review of our network plan – where we adjusted a significant number of our trains and their schedules.”
The Norfolk Southern train had 53 cars that derailed with at least 10 carrying hazardous material.
A manifest released by the company indicates the cars were carrying vinyl chloride, benzene, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate and isobutylene, propylene glycol, butyl acrylate and other materials including malt liquors, paraffin wax, petroleum lube fuel and frozen vegetables.
During a Tuesday news conference, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he learned from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio that the train was not considered a highly hazardous material train because many of the cars did not contain hazardous materials. That means the railroad was not required to notify residents about what was in the railcars coming through.
DeWine remarked that this classification of the train was “absurd” and called on Congress to look into this in the future.
The National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate the incident. Tuesday, it released a statement saying the rail car that started the derailment has been identified and an overheated wheel bearing is being probed as a potential cause.
Surveillance video from a residence showed what appears to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment.
A video captured by a security camera at Butech Bliss, an industrial equipment company in Salem that is about 20 miles before the derailment site, showed what appears to be a fiery axle.
A company representative said the video was captured at 8:12 p.m. on Feb. 3, which was about 43 minutes before a Norfolk Southern train went off the tracks in East Palestine at 8:55 p.m.
NTSB says its preliminary report on its investigation will likely be complete within two weeks, and it will issue safety recommendations if it finds that new protocols should be in place.