By Carrie Wells, The Baltimore Sun
8:16 PM EDT, June 12, 2013
The National Transportation Safety Board released new details Wednesday on its investigation into last month's train derailment and explosion in Rosedale, finding that more chemicals were released in the crash than originally reported.
NTSB investigators also found that stop signs at the grade crossing where a truck and freight train collided were faded and had been taken off their original mountings. The report is preliminary, and the board has said its full investigation into the derailment could take a year or more.
At about 2 p.m. May 28, the driver of a truck carrying garbage did not stop at a grade crossing and collided with a southbound CSX train traveling about 49 mph, regulation speed, the NTSB report said. The crash triggered a fire in two of the derailed cars and an explosion felt around the region.
The driver of the truck, John Alban Jr., 50, of Essex, was seriously injured but has been discharged from the hospital. NTSB investigators had not interviewed him as of Wednesday.
NTSB investigators found that five train cars — one loaded with sodium chlorate, four with terephthalic acid — "released their products." Agency spokesman Eric Weiss said terephthalic acid leaked from all four cars and in one spot caught fire, while the sodium chlorate fueled the explosion. Originally, officials had said that terephthalic acid from one car caught fire but did not indicate that more had been released.
Terephthalic acid, used in making plastics, is not considered hazardous by the U.S. Department of Transportation, though it can produce harmful gas.
Sodium chlorate is used in making a variety of products, including herbicides, explosives, dyes, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and paper. NTSB said it is considered hazardous by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Officials at the crash scene determined at the time that there was no great threat to public health.
Drivers are required by law to stop at unguarded rail crossings. The Rosedale crossing — the only way in and out of Alban's trucking business — had no gates or flashing lights. The crossing, near the 7500 block of Lake Drive in an industrial section of Rosedale, was marked with crossbucks and poorly maintained, nonstandard yellow stop signs, the NTSB said.
"The paint on both stop signs had faded significantly, and both had been displaced from their original mountings," NTSB investigators wrote in their report. "The stop sign that should have been regulating traffic moving northbound hung upside down facing away from the roadway."
Alban's truck crossed the tracks going north.
The NTSB found that besides Alban, one other person was seriously injured, with broken bones, and three others had minor injuries. A Baltimore Sun survey after the crash found that local hospitals treated a few related injuries, including a person hit by a falling ceiling fan, two men who suffered cuts and bruises when the building they were in partly collapsed and a female first responder whose ears were damaged.
CSX has estimated the damage to the track at $120,000, with damage to equipment of $505,000. Nearby buildings were badly damaged.
The NTSB has said the train had a forward-facing camera, and videos from surveillance cameras on nearby buildings show the collision.
Alban was driving a 2003 Mack Granite three-axle, roll-off straight truck, the NTSB said. The train's whistle blew three times, and was sounding as the train hit the truck, NTSB officials have said. The train was traveling from Selkirk, N.Y., to Waycross, Ga.
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