By Eduardo Medina and Claire Fahy
The wreckage from a Norfolk Southern train derailment Saturday in Ohio — the second such crash in the state in just over a month — was cleaned up by Sunday afternoon as investigators set to determine what led 28 cars to leave the tracks.
No hazardous materials were involved in the derailment, which happened around 5 p.m. local time near Springfield, Ohio, about 80 miles northeast of Cincinnati, officials said.
The train of 212 cars was traveling from Bellevue, Ohio, to Birmingham, Alabama, and was operated by Norfolk Southern, the same rail company that has faced scrutiny after a devastating train derailment last month in East Palestine, Ohio.
That derailment led to concerns over air and water quality after a controlled burn of toxic chemicals that authorities believed posed the risk of an explosion. The crash Saturday renewed concerns about rail safety and about Norfolk Southern’s performance.
“This truly is outrageous,” Mike Turner, a Republican congressman from Ohio, said on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “Luckily, it seems we may have missed a bullet in this one.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said on “This Week” on Sunday that the train that derailed Saturday was at least 50 cars longer than the train that derailed in East Palestine.
“The railroad’s got a lot of questions they’ve got to answer and they really haven’t really done it very well yet,” he said.
County and state health and environmental officials at a news conference Sunday said the derailment near Springfield posed no risk to the public. Officials had issued a precautionary shelter-in-place order for residents within 1,000 feet of the crash site, which was lifted early Sunday.
Charles Patterson, the health commissioner of the Clark County Combined Health District, said there had been “multiple sweeps by multiple teams” to rule out the presence of chemicals in the soil, air and water. Anne Vogel, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, said no chemicals or hazardous materials were released.
Kraig Barner, a general manager for Norfolk Southern, said Sunday that 28 cars of the train had derailed. The company previously reported that 20 cars had derailed. He said the two crew members on board were uninjured.
Barner said the train had four tankers that carried nonhazardous materials. Two had residual amounts of diesel exhaust fluid, and the others had residual amounts of polyacrylamide water solution. One hopper carrying nontoxic plastic pellets derailed, spilling some of them.
The rest of the train included a couple of liquid propane and ethanol tankers and cars with mixed freight, steel and finished automobiles, which did not overturn, Barner said, adding that many of the cars that derailed were empty box cars.
Nearly 50 residents were still without power Sunday evening after the derailment took down power lines. The last train car was cleared from the crash site at 3 p.m. Sunday, Barner said, and Norfolk Southern estimated that another 12 hours of track work remained.
The cause of the crash was not immediately known and officials said the Federal Railroad Administration will investigate. Representatives from the administration could not be reached Sunday.
The National Transportation Safety Board on Sunday night said it would also be investigating and that it would have a team at the site by Monday.
Shawn Heaton was running errands Saturday when the gates came down at a railroad crossing. He was scrolling through his phone as he waited for the train to pass when suddenly a loud bang startled him, he said.
Heaton looked up to see metal and rocks flying as train cars began jumping off the tracks.
“It wasn’t really registering, and then I saw the cars actually going sideways,” he said. “I thought, I better get out of here because this could go really, really bad, really fast.”
Heaton described the area where the train derailed as near a crossing among gravel pits, a pond and the Clark County Fairgrounds. He said the hazardous materials involved in the derailment in East Palestine, which is more than 200 miles northeast of Springfield, immediately came to mind when he left the crash site Saturday.
“Once I got back home, the first thing I did was get on my phone and check wind direction and all that stuff to make sure we were upwind,” Heaton said. “It’s just crazy, the things that can go through your mind.”