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CHATTANOOGA, TN – The Federal Railroad Administration is investigating the May 23 CSX train derailment in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which happened at about 4:30 p.m. near the 3200 block of Broad Street. Officials may also be looking at the steadily rising number of accidents in the area.

Workers inspect overturned rail cars after a CSX train derailed on the tracks that cross Broad St. No injuries were reported in the mishap. Photo credit: Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press

The CSX derailment was at least the third this year in Chattanooga. A fourth derailment happened in 2010 in Rossville, GA and just this last Thursday morning, May 29, 2010 in Apison, Tennessee, also in Hamilton County, a train and car collided at a rail crossing at Sanabel Lane near Apison Pike.

According to The Federal Railroad Administration’s train accident database, there were five accidents in Hamilton County in the first two months of this year alone. The database is online but is only complete through Feb. 28, 2010.

In total, there have been at least seven train accidents, including derailments, in Hamilton County this year.

A spokesman from the Federal Railroad Administration, Warren Flatau, said that the agency was investigating at least one accident in Chattanooga and that he was confident that the increase was “something they have looked at and will continue to look at.”

Mr. Flatau went on to say that rail frequency analyses are used try to determine if accidents are related, and if there is anything systemic going on, or even localized.

Flatau said that the rise in local accidents could be the result of “happenstance or circumstance.”

He said that inspectors check infrastructure and equipment, but also check records employee hours as well as gate maintenance and track and yard maintenance.

Last week, following the Chattanooga CSX derailment, company officials said they had narrowed down the cause of the incident to three possibilities:

  • A faulty track
  • Overly weighted cars … or
  • Crew error

That uncertainty played a role in federal rail regulators’ decision to investigate the mishap.

Mr. Flatau said that the agency would dispatch inspectors who are also trained investigators and based upon what they find, a decision would be made as to whether or not they would do a full investigation.

In an article at the Chattanooga Times Free Press website, Mr. Flatau was quoted as stating, “We tend to investigate the most serious or consequential events: Those involving hazardous materials, those involving human factors, passenger trains, multiple fatalities, major impacts on rail operations.”

In the May 23rd derailment of a CSX train in Chattanooga, one of the cars knocked off the tracks was carrying 100 pounds of ferrous sulfate, which is used as fertilizer.

In the Chattanooga Times Free Press article, officials from CSX and Norfolk Southern would not comment on the increase and frequency of accidents without further study of the records.

Norfolk Southern spokesman Rudy Husband questioned the accuracy of the records. He said that he believed most of the incidents listed in the Federal Railroad Administration’s report wer “very minor” and that some may be duplicates.

Husband went on to say, “Norfolk Southern has been the safest railroad in the country for 21 years,” and that safety was their number one priority.

CSX spokeswoman Carla Groleau said that the company was continuing with its own investigation of the May 23rd derailment, stating that they conduct thorough internal investigations, and that they didn’t have a cause yet.

Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press

Published by fela lawyer Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP

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