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Liberty, SC – A Norfolk Southern train derailed in Liberty, SC on Thursday, June 10, 2010 at about 4:30 p.m. A toxic substance was spilled from a tanker in the mishap but the spill was contained by Hazmat teams. Twenty-four freight cars were involved in the derailment and were damaged as a result.

Massive pileup of freight cars near Liberty, SC as a result of the Norfolk Southern derailment on Thursday, June 10, 2010

Liberty is in Pickens County, South Carolina in the northwestern part of the state, about 235 miles northwest of Charleston, about 20 miles southwest of Greenville, about 111 miles southwest of Rock Hill, about 239 miles northwest of Mount Pleasant, about 49 miles southwest of Spartanburg, about 126 miles northwest of Columbia, about 270 miles norhtwest of Myrtle Beach and about 214 miles northwest of Summerville.

The northbound 97-car train with 3 locomotives was carrying an assortment of flammable materials. A later report put the total number of cars in the train at 110. The Norfolk Southern train was headed from Atlanta, Georgia to Linwood, North Carolina when it went off the tracks in Liberty, South Carolina. The derailment occurred about 300 yards from the Liberty town line at the railway crossing at Farmers Hill Road right off Old Norris Road.

Location of the Norfolk Southern train derailment at the railway crossing at Farmers Hill Road right off Old Norris Road.

The derailment caused a mandatory evacuation of 436 homes within a mile of the incident on Thursday. Most residents were allowed to return to their homes later on during the night but 11 houses and an estimated 28 people were still evacuated at that time.

Still, a new evacuation order was issued on Friday afternoon because of a new concern over a chemical called toulene diisocyanate, which is used in plastic and other chemical manufacturing. Officials said that the chemical was in one of the rail cars that they were trying to upright and that the evacuation order was only a precaution.

As of Friday afternoon, 12 of the derailed cars had been righted.


According to director of Pickens County Emergency Management, Lynn Fisher, one railcar had been on fire but apparently burned out on its own. In the aftermath there were concerns of an explosion but firefighters kept their distance as a precaution.

According to a spokesman from the railroad company, the train was carrying flammable materials – isopropyl, ethylene glycol and polyurethane. Isopropyl is a flammable alcohol-based liquid, ethylene glycol is a flammable liquid and polyurethane, used in making foam for car seats, is also flammable.

According to Thom Berry, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, the spilled liquid was contained at the derailment site and air tests showed no dangerous materials in the air. There was also no threat to public drinking water because there are no public water supplies in the area.

A white powdery substance also spilled in the mishap, but was not toxic.

No injuries were reported in the mishap.

Twisted pile of rail cars after the derailment of a Northfolk Southern train on its way to Linwood, North Carolina from Atlanta, Georgia

The cause of the derailment is unknown at this time, but an investigation is underway. The train’s conductor and a crew member were being interviewed by detectives. Officials say that the section of track where the derailment happened was just newly rebuilt just two weeks prior to the accident but it is not known if that was a factor or not.

On Thursday, the train’s black box was recovered from the wreck site and  officials are hoping that it will help them determine what caused the cars to go off the tracks.

Norfolk Southern is footing the bill for evacuees’ hotel expenses. Officials said that residents affected by the evacuation order can bring receipts for their hotel stay to the Liberty Fire Department, where they will be reimbursed by Norfolk Southern.

Below is a Google street view of the railway crossing at Farmers Hill Road when viewed from Old Norris Road. You can click the mouse and drag it around to get a full 360° view of the intersection adjacent to the scene of the accident.

View Larger Map

Mike Rowland, who is a volunteer with the Liberty Fire Department, said that was on his way home with his son in a car nearby when he heard the train as it came around the curve at the wreck site and then the train made a sudden stop.

Realizing that trains don’t stop that quickly he turned the car around and drove to the nearest train crossing. He saw the derailed train and called the fire department.

Published by fela lawyer Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP

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