National Transportation Safety Board
Washington, D.C.  20594

Opening Statement by Honorable
Carol J. Carmody
Chairman, Board of Inquiry
July 15, 2002

 


 This Public Hearing has been convened by the National Transportation Safety Board under the authority of section 304b of the Independent Safety Board Act of 1974.  This hearing is part of the Safety Board's investigation of the accident involving the derailment of the Canadian Pacific Railway, freight train 292-16, near Minot, North Dakota, on January 18, 2002.

 I am Carol J. Carmody, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, and Chairman of these proceedings.  The other members of the Board of Inquiry from the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington, D.C. are:

 Ms. Jo Strang - Hearing Officer
 Associate Director, Railroad Division

 Mr. Robert J. Chipkevich
Director, Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials

Dr. Vernon S. Ellingstad
Director, Office of Research and Engineering

And Mr. Jim Rosenberg
Deputy, Director for Operations, Office of Safety Recommendations and Accomplishments

    At approximately 1:39 a.m., central standard time, January 18, 2002, a Canadian Pacific Railway freight train with two locomotives and 112 cars derailed 31 cars near Minot, North Dakota.  Seven tank cars carrying anhydrous ammonia were breached, and a vapor plume covered the derailment site and community. More than 210,000 gallons of product was released, one of the largest single releases of anhydrous ammonia in the United States.  A local resident was fatally injured. The plume of anhydrous ammonia affected approximately 15,000 people, and between 60 and 65 residents of the neighborhood near the derailment site had to be rescued. More than 300 people were injured, 11 seriously.

    Because of the time of day and extreme cold temperature, -5 degrees Fahrenheit, the general community, in essence, sheltered in place.  Many of the 15,000 unknowingly slept through the most hazardous concentration of anhydrous ammonia outside their homes. By morning, most of the lethal levels of gas had dissipated. We can only wonder how tragic this accident could have been if the derailment had occurred later in the day, when the people of Minot were going about their normal activities.

    This accident  has been investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.  We have been assisted in the investigation of this accident by representatives of the parties to this hearing.  The purpose of this hearing is:

1. To go beyond our field investigation, tests, and interviews to develop a factual record for determining the probable cause of this accident.

2. To report the facts, conditions, and circumstances relating to this accident, and;

3. To assist the National Transportation Safety Board in making recommendations to prevent similar accidents.

    We plan on concluding this hearing on Tuesday, after taking testimony for two (2) days.  This hearing is an administrative, fact-finding proceeding with no adverse interests and no adverse parties.  It is not our purpose to assign blame or to determine the legal rights and/or liabilities of persons or organizations, and the Safety Board will not make any attempt to do so.  Matters directly related to such rights and liabilities will be excluded from these proceedings.

    Pursuant to Safety Board rules, a pre-hearing conference was held July 8, 2002, in Washington, D.C.  The pre-hearing conference was attended by the members of the Board of Inquiry, the members of the Technical Panel, and parties to the hearing.  The witnesses for the hearing, the areas in which they are questioned, and the issues to be addressed were discussed and agreed upon by the participants.  In addition, exhibits to be introduced in evidence were identified and agreed upon by the participants.

    During the pre-hearing conference I agreed to accept two new exhibits into the record.  At this time I would like to designate Exhibit 2-S "Rail Joint Photographs" and Exhibit 5-B.1 "Entire Research Report RA-03-6-62 (R-924), December 1998, Facture Behavior of Tank Car Steel in Accidents, 1981-1994" as officially being entered as exhibits.  Are there any Parties that did not receive these exhibits this morning?

    Copies of the witness list developed for this hearing have been made available.  Ms. Lauren Peduzzi, a Safety Board Public Affairs Officer, is here to assist the press and the public, furnish a copy of the witness list, and provide access to the exhibits.

    The docket, containing the exhibits, and any other related materials is available for inspection at the Board's Washington, D.C. office.  The transcript of the testimony that will be taken during the hearing will be entered into the docket as soon as practicable.  Copies of the transcript, exhibits, and photographs introduced during this hearing may be obtained, for a fee, from the court reporter.

    The conduct of this hearing will be governed by the Safety Board's Rules of Practice.  Under these rules, the witness will be questioned first by the Technical Panel, then by the spokesperson for each party, and finally by the Board of Inquiry.  Cross-examination of the legal sense will not be permitted.  After one round of questions, I may go around a second time for any follow-up questions and/or clarifications.  However, I expect follow-up questions to be limited to those necessary to clarify the record, or to address some new matter that has been raised.

     The formal issues which will be addressed in the public hearing and to which testimony and questioning will be limited, are as follows:

1. The railroad's practices and procedures for maintaining its track and its program for monitoring compliance with its maintenance procedures.

2. The timeliness and continuity of the Federal Railroad Administration's training and oversight of its employees with regard to new regulatory language and interpretations.

3. Tank car crashworthiness, specifically the adequacy of non-normalized steels to resist fracture propagation below transition temperatures.

    The parties to this hearing will have the opportunity to submit proposed findings of facts, conclusions, and recommendations to the Board of Inquiry after the close of this hearing.  I encourage the parties to make use of this opportunity.  If you decide to submit proposed findings, conclusions, and/or recommendations, please send them to the National Transportation Safety Board within 60 calendar days after the close of this hearing.  You should also send copies of any submissions to each of the other parties.  Any proposals will be made part of the public docket of the investigation and will receive careful consideration during the Safety Board's analysis of evidence and preparation of the final report.

    At this time I would like to introduce the members of the Safety Board's Technical Panel.

Mr. Ted Turpin, Investigator-In-Charge
Railroad

Mr. Richard Hipskind, Accident Investigator
Railroad

Mr. Thomas Lasseigne, Accident Investigator
Hazardous Materials

Mr. Frank Zakar
Materials Laboratory Division

Mr. Robert Trainor
Associate Director - Hazardous Materials

Mr. Jim Remines, Accident Investigator
Railroad

    Also present is Ms. Evelyn Hemingway, for administrative assistance.

    I will now call the parties to the hearing, and ask each spokesperson to stand, identify themselves, their affiliation with the party they represent, and introduce those other persons at their party's table.

1. Canadian Pacific Railway

(Pat Pender, Vice President)

2. Federal Railroad Administration

(Edward Pritchard, Acting Director, Office of Safety
Assurance and Compliance
Alternate Spokesperson
Jim Rader, Staff Director - FRA HazMat Program)

3. City of Minot

(Robert Wetzler, Fire Chief, Minot Rural Fire Department)

4. Trinity Industries, Inc.

(Thomas h. Dalrymple,Director-Tank Car Engineering/Railcar Div)

5. General American Transportation Corporation

(Terrence G. Heidkamp, Executive Vice President Operations
Alternate Spokesperson
John Swezey, Vice President Engineering)

6. Association of American Railroad Tank Car Committee

(Paul Kinnecom, Chairman Tank Car Committee)

7. Brotherhood of maintenance-of-way employees

(Rick Inclima)
    Thank you.  At this time I will call on the Hearing Officer to describe the exhibits to be used during the Hearing. Ms. Strang.

    (Jo will introduce the exhibits)

    Thank you, Ms. Strang.

    At this point, we will have a brief description of the accident by the Investigator-In-Charge.  Mr. Turpin.

    (Ted gives his presentation)

    Thank you, Mr. Turpin

    Now, I will call on the hearing officer to call and qualify the first witness.  Ms. Strang.