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CSX train carrying about 8,000 tons of coal derails in Bowie

Railway DisastersIndustrial DisastersTransportation DisastersRailway TransportationPublic Transportation DisastersNational Transportation Safety Board

A CSX freight train carrying about 8,000 tons of coal partially derailed in Bowie early Thursday morning, according to CSX officials and the Prince George's County Fire & EMS Department.

The incident marked the third major Mid-Atlantic incident for the railroad since Wednesday, when a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in Lynchburg, Va., and a massive retaining wall collapsed onto freight tracks in Baltimore.

Gary Sease, a CSX spokesman, said Thursday that the railroad is focused on the needs of nearby residents in Baltimore and Lynchburg, and did not have estimates for when any of the tracks would be cleared.

Whether heavy rains in Maryland and Virginia played a role in the accidents will be part of the railroad's investigations, Sease said.

The line where the derailment occurred in Bowie is also a freight line, officials said — raising questions about the combined impact the Baltimore and Bowie incidents will have on freight movements in the region, including out of the port of Baltimore.

The Baltimore tracks covered by the collapse and subsequent landslide in Baltimore serve trains carrying container cargo out of the Seagirt Marine Terminal, and port officials were assessing the potential impact on port operations late Wednesday, according to Richard Scher, a Maryland Port Administration spokesman.

Sease said all of CSX's operations out of Seagirt were at a "standstill" as of Thursday morning.

"But we're talking to [the Maryland Port Administration] on contingency plans, and of course working at the Baltimore site to determine how quicky we can get our line open there," Sease said.

Commuter lines were not impacted in Baltimore or Bowie, officials said.

No injuries were reported in the Bowie incident, which firefighters and hazardous-materials personnel responded to at about 2:30 a.m. near the intersection of Old Annapolis Road and Laurel Bowie Road, Prince George's fire officials said.

The train of three locomotives and 63 cars was headed from a coalmine in southwestern Pennsylvania, outside Pittsburgh, to Woodzell in southern Maryland, Sease said.

Three CSX employees who were aboard the train at the time were accounted for and uninjured, officials said.

At the scene, three locomotives and 10 train cars had left the tracks but did not overturn, according to the fire department. According to Sease and in images shared on Twitter by the Bowie Volunteer Fire Department, which also responded, at least one car appeared to have overturned, spilling its load of coal.

Prince George's officials said there were "no immediate life safety concerns or haz-mat issues" at the site of the Bowie derailment, and the situation had been turned over to CSX.

Fire officials will "continue to monitor the situation throughout the day," the department said.

In Baltimore, engineers were still assessing the collapsed retaining wall early Thursday morning, which sent street lights and fencing, sidewalks and half a dozen cars careening onto tracks below. There were no injuries reported.

In Lynchburg, the downtown district was evacuated Wednesday afternoon after about 15 tanker cars carrying crude oil derailed — some plunged into the James River, which was at flood stage, and a large fire burned amid the spilled oil. There were also no injuries there.

The large amount of rain that pounded the region through Wednesday seemed to have played a major role in the Baltimore street collapse and landslide, though it was not clear if it played a role in the other two incidents.

The National Transportation Safety Board is participating in the investigation of the Lynchburg accident, though they had not gotten involved in either the Baltimore or Bowie incidents as of Thursday morning, Sease said.

"Weather will be just one of many factors that are part of the investigation in all of the accidents, Bowie and Lynchburg and Baltimore as well," Sease said. "It's definitely a lot of rain in the region lately, but again our investigations and the NTSB's investigation in Lynchburg are just underway and nothing's been established yet."

krector@baltsun.com

twitter.com/rectorun

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Railway DisastersIndustrial DisastersTransportation DisastersRailway TransportationPublic Transportation DisastersNational Transportation Safety Board
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