Photo of ruptured chlorine tank car during unloading.

​​​Ruptured chlorine tank car during unloading. The tank has been rotated so that the patched puncture is at the top. Hoses attached to the patch are drawing off chlorine vapors that are then bubbled through a sodium hydroxide solution to reduce their hazard. 

Collision of Norfolk Southern Freight Train 192 With Standing Norfolk Southern Local Train P22 With Subsequent Hazardous Materials Release

What Happened

​​About 2:39 a.m. eastern standard time on January 6, 2005, northbound Norfolk Southern Railway Company (NS) freight train 192, while traveling about 47 mph through Graniteville, South Carolina, encountered an improperly lined switch that diverted the train from the main line onto an industry track, where it struck an unoccupied, parked train (NS train P22). The collision derailed both locomotiv​es and 16 of the 42 freight cars of train 192, as well as the locomotive and 1 of the 2 cars of train P22. Among the derailed cars from train 192 were three tank cars containing chlorine, one of which was breached, releasing chlorine gas. The train engineer and eight other people died as a result of chlorine gas inhalation. About 554 people complaining of respiratory difficulties were taken to local hospitals. Of these, 75 were admitted for treatment. Because of the chlorine release, about 5,400 people within a 1-mile radius of the derailment site were evacuated for several days. Total damages exceeded $6.9 million.


What We Found

We determined​ that the probable cause of the January 6, 2005, collision and derailment of Norfolk Southern train 192 in Graniteville, South Carolina, was the failure of the crew of Norfolk Southern train P22 to return a main line switch to the normal position after the crew completed work at an industry track. Contributing to the failure was the absence of any feature or mechanism that would have reminded crewmembers of the switch position and thus would have prompted them to complete this final critical task before departing the work site. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the puncture of the ninth car in the train, a tank car containing chlorine, which resulted in the release of poisonous chlorine gas.

What We Recommended

We made safety recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration.