Feds won't probe Venice train wreck

SANDUSKY The federal agency responsible for train safety probably won't investigate Monday's Norfolk
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010



The federal agency responsible for train safety probably won't investigate Monday's Norfolk Southern train derailment that tipped over 17 Triple Crown trailers near Venice Road.

Warren Flatau, a spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration, said Tuesday the agency has no plans to conduct its own investigation because the incident does not meet its threshold of being a serious accident or one in which the cause is unknown.

In fact, it appears that train accidents or incidents are not uncommon in Erie County.

The Federal Railroad Administration data shows that Erie County has had nine train incidents so far during 2007, up from seven in all of 2006 and five in 2005. A total of 78 incidents have been logged during a 10-year period.

Although there have been 59 incidents involving cars carrying hazardous materials during the last 10 years in Erie County, the agency said no railroad cars carrying hazardous materials were damaged and no hazardous materials were released.

Norfolk Southern, which has not said what caused Monday's derailment, will likely be required to file a formal report on the derailment within 30 days to the federal agency.

"We file a report with the Federal Railroad Administration on every derailment," said Rudy Husband, spokesman for Norfolk Southern Corp., Norfolk Southern's parent company.

Norfolk Southern's train was running from Bethlehem, Pa., to Chicago when the incident occurred at 3:40 p.m. Monday, Husband said. No one was injured. The train had a crew of two.

Twenty-two Triple Crown trailers holding the company's paper products were derailed and 17 overturned. One trailer spilled toilet paper and paper towels onto Venice Road.

Triple Crown trailers are semitrailers fitted with sets of rail wheels for trips over tracks.

The rail wheels are removed at facilities such as the Triple Crown yard off Old Railroad Road and the trailers hitched to tractor-trailer trucks for road trips.

After the accident, Norfolk Southern called in a contractor, Hulcher Professional Services of Toledo, which brought in equipment and cleared the tracks by 2 a.m. Tuesday, Husband said.

On Tuesday morning, a group of Norfolk Southern employees dug a new foundation to put in a replacement gate on the Venice Road crossing to protect motorists from crossing the tracks when a train is coming. One of the gates at the crossing was knocked aside when the train derailed.

"It will be a newer style gate," said Ron Wallace, communications and signal supervisor at Norfolk Southern's Bellevue yard. "It will be upgraded."

Norfolk Southern wanted the crossing to be safe before it was opened to motorists at about 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wallace said.

Norfolk Southern has not determined the cause of the accident as of Tuesday afternoon, said Husband, who declined to release a damage estimate.

"We normally don't release that number," he said.