UPDATE: Investigators Find Broken Rail Caused Mount Carbon Train Derailment

Published: Jul. 24, 2015 at 5:54 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
UPDATE 10/9/15 @ 9:15 a.m.

MONTGOMERY, W.Va. ( WV MetroNews) -- Federal Railroad acting administrator Sarah Feinberg will announce this morning in Montgomery a broken rail caused the February derailment and fire involving 27 CSX crude oil tankers in the Fayette County community of Mount Carbon.

Feinberg will announce the broken rail came from a vertical split head rail defect and the problem should be noticed by CSX and its contractor, Sperry Rail Service, when the tracks were checked twice in the months before the accident.

Feinberg will use this morning’s announcement as a forum to introduce rail safety changes from keeping a similar accident from occurring.

The derailment sent shock waves through Montgomery-area community.

“A derailment is kind of an animal unto itself, versus a car wreck or a structure fire,” Montgomery Fire Department Chief Brent Musick told MetroNews Thursday. “There’s just no comparison to that and anything we’ve run. We’ve had some large structure fires, but nothing involving hazardous materials and things like that.”

Musick recalled learning of the fire when he received a call from the chief of the Anderson Creek Volunteer Fire Department telling him a train had derailed and was on fire. By the time Musick’s department arrived on scene, there was no way to fight the fire.

“There was nothing that could be done except evacuation and that’s what we did,” said Musick. “We knew we had one house that was gone and checked to make sure the other exposures on both sides were okay. We got within about 100 yards of it.”

Firefighters went door to door in the nearby Adena Village housing development which was only a few hundred yards away. Residents were not panicked, but calmly asked for directions to get out of their homes, where to go, and how to avoid the fire along state Route 61.

Adding to the difficulties were continuous explosions as the highly volatile Bakkan Crude oil in the derailed tankers ignited.

“Really intense heat and it was bright and kind of lit up the sky,” Musick said. “By that time they were back far enough away they weren’t in any danger, but they could feel the effects.”

The weather didn’t help matters. Snow was pouring as local residents scrambled to get out f the area and first responders arrived. During subsequent days the temperature plunged below zero making the difficult situation even more bleak.


KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) – More than five months after a CSX train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed in Mount Carbon, federal officials say they’re getting closer to finding out what caused the accident.

The Federal Railroad Administration says the investigation into that derailment is still ongoing, but it is expected to wrap up in the next few weeks.

“There has not been a clearer reminder of the importance of the mission of safety than that incident,” said Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration. “In the five months since that incident, we’ve actually taken a number of steps to try to improve safety. Particularly when it comes to transporting crude by rail.”

The FRA says it’s implementing several new rules in the wake of that derailment. Those include phasing out the current DOT-111 tank cars, retrofitting DOT-1232s, and requiring new standards for tank cars manufactured after Oct. 1, 2015.

Trains are also being equipped with new electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes.

“Which is basically a braking system that applies the brakes to all tank cars at once, as opposed to a sequential braking system,” Feinberg said. “And the other thing we did was require that railroads make sure that they're doing a good job of notifying first responders of what's actually coming through the state."

In West Virginia, however, the details of when and where those trains are going, as well as how much crude oil they’re carrying, are only required to be given to first responders, and not to the public. Sarah Feinberg says those decisions come down to state officials.

"I don't think it's any great news to anybody in West Virginia where the railroad tracks are,” said Emergency Management Director Jimmy Gianato. “So, I think knowing where the railroad tracks are, people that live by the railroad tracks know that every day hazardous material transverse those routes every day. And in West Virginia, the amount of hazardous materials is larger than some other states just because of the sheer number of chemical facilities that we have."

Feinberg, Gianato, and Major General James Hoyer with the West Virginia National Guard were in Gallagher, West Virginia, on Friday to tour the Center for National Response. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also was scheduled to be on the tour, but had to stay in Washington, D.C. to cast a vote on a transportation bill.

Statement from Rep. Evan Jenkins:
"The Federal Railroad Administration's report shows the Mount Carbon derailment could have been prevented. The safety of the rail lines that run through West Virginia's cities and towns must be an absolute priority, and our residents deserve the peace of mind of knowing that the tracks have been thoroughly inspected. I will push to ensure the FRA's recommendations are fully implemented so a derailment like the one we saw in Mount Carbon never happens again. I visited Mount Carbon immediately after the derailment, spoke with residents who had to flee their homes, and saw the fires firsthand. We are fortunate that there was no loss of life from this derailment, but that may not be the case next time. This derailment must serve as a warning for train companies and federal inspectors alike - the lives of West Virginians depend on it."