Derailed train spurs evacuation

A CSX freight train with a tanker containing a hazardous chemical derailed early yesterday morning along the Patapsco River near the Carroll-Howard county line, prompting residents of 100 neighboring homes to briefly evacuate as a precaution.

No one was injured in the accident, which occurred on the Carroll County side of the river in Marriottsville, fire officials said. CSX crews working with hazardous-materials teams had righted and inspected the tanker by about 7 last night, allowing residents to return home.


The tanker was carrying 33,000 gallons of liquid anhydrous ammonia, a fertilizer component that can cause burns, blindness and respiratory problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No hazardous materials were released during the accident or as the tanker was being secured, said Sgt. Bill Rehkopf, spokesman for the Sykesville-Freedom District Fire Department. Twenty-one of the train's 91 cars - en route to Philadelphia from Cumberland - derailed about 2:15 a.m., Rehkopf said. Emergency crews from both counties arrived at the scene after receiving a call about 3 a.m.

Most of the 75 people gathered for temporary shelter at the Sykesville fire hall yesterday afternoon were students and staff from the state's Thomas O'Farrell Youth Center, a juvenile detention facility in Marriottsville, Rehkopf said.


Staff had to cancel last night's Christmas party for the 43 boys from the youth center, who were evacuated to the fire hall at 2 p.m.

"They're frustrated because we were told we could leave around 4 [p.m.]," Charles Bosley, the center's program director said last night. "We plan on taking them out tomorrow to go bowling, if everything works out."

Authorities had asked residents within one mile of the derailment site to evacuate their homes until workers had removed the car carrying the hazardous chemical. Within that radius, stretches of Marriottsville, Arrington and Henryton roads were closed last night, officials said.

Children who live around the site were asked to remain at their schools in Carroll and Howard counties until their parents could reach them. Also, residents living within three miles of the site were told to keep their windows and doors closed, and shut off outdoor ventilation devices until the hazardous tanker could be cleared.

The rail line should open by 3 p.m. today, Carroll County spokeswoman Vivian D. Laxton said.

Authorities said the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident. It was difficult for crews to reach the site because of its remote location, Laxton said.

Rehkopf said the accident gave emergency and environmental workers from both counties and the state a chance to further coordinate efforts under pressure.

"It's been seamless," Rehkopf said last night. "We had great inter-agency cooperation. It's nice to know the stuff we train for actually works."


Residents affected by the evacuation can call CSX at 410-525-8283 with questions or concerns, including requests for reimbursement for hotel or other expenses incurred as a result of the derailment.