On Friday, a train derailment in Paulsboro, New Jersey, created a hazardous chemical spill. Soon after, officials announced that the derailment may be connected to problems with the train signal at the point of the accident.
According to the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, crew members have been reporting that the radio code used to switch the signal lights malfunctioned just before the train accident occurred.
Due to the malfunction, the conductor of the train inspected the bridge just before taking the train across it. Although the train was traveling at just eight miles per hour, seven train cars derailed. It’s not clear whether the signal had any role in the accident.
The ensuing spill of toxic chemicals contaminated the air and sickened dozens of people in the area. More than 100 nearby residents were removed from their homes while cleanup crews attended to the mess. The spill leaked chemicals into a nearby creek and created high levels of vinyl chloride in the air.
As the cleanup continues, investigators are trying to piece together the puzzle to figure out what resulted in the derailment. Because the site is still contaminated with hazardous materials, investigators are limited in the work they can do in trying to solve the case.
Although the chemicals and accident are said to be contained, cleaning up the mess and removing the train cars is a delicate process that needs to be done carefully to prevent further spills from other train cars.
Meanwhile, local health officials remain vigilant about the toxic threat and are being overly cautious to prevent further illnesses among the public. More than 70 people have gone to the emergency room after inhaling the fumes, but no serious injuries have been suffered.
Source: NBC 10 Philadelphia, “Signal Problems Preceded NJ Train Derailment,” Geoff Mulvihill, Dec. 1, 2012