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Accident Report Detail

Derailment of Illinois Central Gulf Railroad Freight Train Extra 9629 East (GS-2-28) and Release of Hazardous Materials

Executive Summary

About 5:12 a.m., c.d.t., on September 28, 1982, Illinois Central Gulf Railroad (ICG) freight train Extra 9629 East (GS-2-28) derailed 43 cars on the single main track of the Hammond District in Livingston, Louisiana. Of the derailed cars, 36 were tank cars; 27 of these cars contained various regulated hazardous or toxic chemical commodities, 2 contained nonregulated hazardous materials, and 5 contained flammable petroleum products. A total of 20 tank cars were punctured or breached in the derailment. Fires broke out in the wreckage, and smoke and toxic gases were released into the atmosphere. Thermally-induced explosions of two tank cars that had not been punctured caused them to rocket violently. About 3,000 persons living within a 5-mile radius of the derailment site were evacuated for as long as 2 weeks. Nineteen residences and other buildings in Livingston were destroyed or severely damaged. More than 200,000 gallons of toxic chemical product were spilled and absorbed into the ground requiring extensive excavation of contaminated soil and its transportation to a distant dump site. This has resulted in long-term closure of the railroad line and an adjacent highway. Property damage has been estimated to be in excess of $14 million.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was (1) the disengagement of a worn air hose coupling when the train passed over a low track joint which initiated an emergency application of the train brakes, (2) an excessive buff force within the train resulting from the failure of the person at the locomotive controls to respond properly to the brake application, and (3) the placement of empty cars near the head of the train between heavily loaded cars Contributing to the cause of the accident were the impairment of the engineer's faculties by alcohol and his abandonment of the locomotive controls to an unauthorized and unqualified person, and the failure of Illinois Central Gulf to supervise train operations and operating personnel adequately, as well as to inspect and to maintain adequately its Hammond District main track Contributing to the contamination of the environment was tank damage resulting from the lack of shelf couplers on some tank cars and the inadequately protected bottom outlet valves on a number of other tank cars.

Accident Location: Livingston , LA    
Accident Date: 9/28/1982
Accident ID: DCA82AR016

Date Adopted: 8/10/1983
NTSB Number: RAR-83-05
NTIS Number: PB83-916305