An aerial view of the Norfolk Southern freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio captured on Feb. 5. (Source: NTSB)
WASHINGTON (Feb. 14, 2023) — The NTSB investigation of the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio is ongoing.
On Feb. 3, at approximately 8:54 p.m., local time, eastbound Norfolk Southern Railway, general merchandise freight train 32N, derailed on main track 1 in East Palestine, Ohio. As a result of the derailment, 38 rail cars derailed and a fire ensued which damaged an additional 12 cars. There were 20 total hazardous material cars in the train consist—11 of which derailed. A list of what the derailed rail cars were carrying is available online. There were no reported fatalities or injuries.
NTSB is conducting a safety investigation to determine the probable cause of the derailment and issue any safety recommendations, if necessary, to prevent future derailments. The NTSB can also issue urgent recommendations at any point during the investigation. All questions regarding the safety investigation should go to NTSB. While emergency response will be a factor in the investigation, NTSB is not involved in air monitoring, testing of water quality, environmental remediation or the evacuation orders. Questions on environmental issues should be referred to the Environmental Protection Agency. Learn more: East Palestine Train Derailment - EPA OSC Response.
Parties to the NTSB investigation provide technical assistance. They include: U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration, Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Village of East Palestine, Norfolk Southern Railway, Trinity Industries Leasing Company, GATX Corporation, Brotherhood of Railway Carmen, International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.
NTSB continues to work with the investigative parties to determine what exactly caused the derailment and to evaluate the emergency response efforts.
NTSB investigators have identified and examined the rail car that initiated the derailment. Surveillance video from a residence showed what appears to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment. The wheelset from the suspected railcar has been collected as evidence for metallurgical examination. The suspected overheated wheel bearing has been collected and will be examined by engineers from the NTSB Materials Laboratory in Washington, D.C.
The tank cars are currently being decontaminated. Once the process is complete, NTSB investigators will return to Ohio to complete a thorough examination of the tank cars.
The vinyl chloride tank car top fittings, including the relief valves, were removed and secured in a locked intermodal container pending an NTSB examination. Once the fittings are examined by NTSB investigators, they will be shipped to Texas for testing, which will be conducted under the direction of the NTSB.
NTSB has obtained locomotive event recorder data, forward- and inward-facing image recording data and wayside defect detector data. NTSB investigators continue to review documentation, event recorder data and perform interviews. A preliminary report is expected to publish in two weeks.
While on scene, NTSB Member Michael Graham hosted two press briefing on Feb. 4 and Feb. 5, which are available on NTSB’s YouTube channel. B-Roll is also available on YouTube.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this release indicated 10 hazardous material railcars were part of the derailment. The actual number is 11.
To report an incident/accident or if you are a public safety agency, please call 1-844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290 to speak to a Watch Officer at the NTSB Response Operations Center (ROC) in Washington, DC (24/7).