US blames train crew for chlorine deaths in wreck

29 November 2005 21:36  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruled on Tuesday that a South Carolina train wreck and chlorine leak earlier this year that killed nine people was the fault of railroad employees who left a switch open.


The NTSB said the 6 January fatal accident at Graniteville, South Carolina resulted when a Norfolk-Southern (NS) railroad crew failed to reset a siding switch to the main line after parking a train on the industrial spur.  Hours later an NS freight train, including three tank cars of chlorine, was shunted off the mainline at high speed into a collision with the parked train.


The impact ruptured one of the chlorine tank cars, and the resulting leak of chlorine gas killed the train conductor and eight people in the town.


“This was a tragic chain of events that did not have to happen and unfortunately resulted in the loss of life,” NTSB acting chairman Mark Rosenker said.  NTSB, he said, “cannot stress enough the importance of following proper procedures and protocols at all times when operating these massive machines.”


Rosenker said NTSB also concluded that the conductor of the parked train failed to follow NS operating rules by not holding an end-of-work job briefing with the parked train crew, a process that NTSB said likely would have resulted in the siding switch being checked and reset as required.


NTSB did not, however, find any fault with the chemical tank cars involved in the wreck.  In the immediate aftermath of the Graniteville accident there were calls in Congress for tougher construction standards for rail tank cars.


The NTSB did recommend that railroads position tank cars toward the rear of trains and reduce train speeds through populated areas to minimize impact forces in accidents and reduce the vulnerability of tank cars.

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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