8 train cars hauling coal derail in Brownsville
Living next to railroad tracks on Water Street in Brownsville, Stephanie Orris is accustomed to the screeching wheels and rumble of passing rail cars.
But she knew something was wrong Tuesday morning when a loud boom sent her husky-shepherd mix, Roxie, scampering indoors from the backyard.
“She got scared to death and ran in the house,” Orris said. “I’m used to them backing up and making a lot of noise, but that was loud.”
Orris said it “sounded like a train derailment.” She looked outside, she said, but she saw nothing amiss because the tracks were shrouded by trees and houses on the opposite side of the street.
Eight rail cars carrying coal derailed along the Monongahela River as a locomotive moved cars at the nearby Alicia Transshipment Facility, said Gary Broadbent, spokesman with Murray Energy of St. Clairsville, Ohio.
Broadbent said Murray American Transportation Inc., or MATI, is investigating. MATI operates tow boats and barges for Murray Energy, which acquired the Alicia facility from Consol Energy in 2013, according to Murray Energy’s website.
“We are currently investigating and cooperating with rail agencies,” Broadbent said. “Our employees are there right now, looking at it and assessing things.”
Fayette 911 said no injuries were reported and vehicular traffic wasn’t impacted. Broadbent said Murray’s facility is back in operation.
Crews at the derailment site used a backhoe to remove the tons of coal from the derailed cars and load it into triaxle trucks. Large trucks bearing the name “Hulcher Services,” a company that specializes in rail emergencies, arrived shortly before noon with heavy machinery for the cleanup.
Although the cars bore CSX markings and fell onto Norfolk Southern’s main line, representatives of both railroads said none of their crews or trains were involved in the derailment.
Susan Terpay of Norfolk Southern said that on Tuesday morning CSX delivered 104 coal-filled rail cars to the Alicia facility, which is located approximately 1 mile from where the cars derailed on the Monongahela River. The rail cars toppled onto Norfolk’s main line at approximately 7:45 a.m., where they “fouled” the tracks, she said.
“The cars were not on our tracks,” Terpay said. “NS tracks are near this track, and when the cars derailed, NS’ rail line was impacted.”
Doolittle said cars branded with the CSX logo were involved, but CSX was not involved because its crews already had left the dock.
John “Yunko” Gavala, 64, of Water Street and his sister, Shirley Gavala Klink, 59, of Youngstown, Ohio, said they were in Gavala’s house next to the tracks when the cars derailed, but they didn’t hear it.
“His friend came down and said, did you see the derailment,” Klink said. “I looked out the window, and I’m like, oh, my God.”
Gavala said in the last incident involving a train that occurred behind his house, a trucker nearly lost his life. He said about 15 to 20 years ago, the driver of a tanker truck attempted to beat a train at a crossing.
The tanker truck exploded on impact and was dragged 1,000 to 1,500 feet before the train stopped, Gavala said. He said the explosion rocked the neighborhood and was felt at least nine blocks away.
“It shook like an earthquake,” Gavala said, describing a fireball that enveloped the truck and three locomotives.
Gavala said the truck driver survived because neighbors used fire extinguishers to douse the flames.
Klink said she is thankful there were no injuries in Tuesday’s derailment.
“Thank God nobody got hurt,” Klink said. “That’s the main thing.”
Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or [email protected].