- Graniteville, South Carolina train disaster
Infobox rail accident
caption = Aerial overview of the accident scene. "Courtesy of EPA"
January 6, 2005
Norfolk Southern Railway
cause= incorrectly aligned
injuries= 250+ The Graniteville train disaster is an American rail disaster that occurred on
January 6 2005, in Graniteville, South Carolina.
At roughly 2:40 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, two
Norfolk Southerntrains collided near an Avondale Millsplant in Graniteville.cite web| author=Jamison, Robert D.; Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration| date= January 10 2005| url=http://www.ble-t.org/pr/pdf/SwitchSafetyAdvisory011005.pdf| title=Notice of safety advisory 2005-01; Position of switches in non-signaled territory| format=PDF| accessdate=2005-02-01| ] Norfolk Southern train No. P22 was parked on a siding near the Avondale Mills plant. Train No. 192, which was transporting chlorinegas, sodium hydroxideand cresol, was diverted by an improperly lined railroad switchonto the siding, where it collided with P22. The collision derailed both locomotives and 16 of 192's 42 freight cars, as well as the locomotive and one of P22's two freight cars. One of 192's tank cars loaded with chlorine ruptured, releasing at least 90 tons of the gas. Nine people died (eight at the time of the accident, one later due to chlorine inhalation), and at least 250 people were treated for chlorine exposure.
5,400 residents within a mile of the crash site were forced to evacuate for nearly two weeks while
HAZMATteams and cleanup crews decontaminated the area.
Eight people lost their lives in the Graniteville train disaster on the day of the accident:
*Christopher Seeling, 28, of
West Columbia, South Carolina, engineer of Norfolk Southern's through train (who was found at the crash site);
*Willie C. Shealey, 43, of Graniteville, employee of Avondale Mills, Inc. (who was found in the wooded area around the Woodhead Division of Avondale Mills, Inc.);
*John Laird, 24, of
North Augusta, South Carolina, employee of Avondale Mills, Inc. (who also was found in the wooded area around the Woodhead Division of Avondale Mills, Inc.);
*Fred "Rusty" Rushton, III, 41, of
Warrenville, South Carolina, employee of Avondale Mills, Inc. (who was found on the loading dock of the Stevens Steam Plant, belonging to Avondale Mills, Inc.);
*Steven Bagby, 38, of
Augusta, Georgia, employee of Avondale Mills, Inc. (who was found in the Gregg Division of Avondale Mills, Inc.);
*Allen Frazier, 58, of Ridge Spring, South Carolina, employee of Avondale Mills, Inc. (who was also found in the Gregg Division of Avondale Mills, Inc.);
*Joseph L. Stone, of
Quebec, Canada, an employee of JW Express Trucking Company; and
*Tony DeLoach, 56, of Graniteville, South Carolina (who was found in his home, on Main Street, Graniteville, South Carolina, near the train wreck).
April 21 2005, one more death was attributed to the accident. Leonard Mathis, a brick mason in Graniteville, was driving home from a convenience store just after the accident occurred. On his way home, he passed through a portion of the chlorine cloud that resulted from the collision. His health deteriorated from that point. [cite web| work=Trains News Wire| date= April 21 2005| url=http://www.trains.com/Content/Dynamic/Articles/000/000/005/862pgfgd.asp| title=Graniteville man's death blamed on chlorine train wreck| publisher=Kalmbach Publishing| accessdate=2005-05-04| ]
Norfolk Southern has announced that it expects the disaster to cost between $30 to $40 million, including the corporation's self-insurance retention under its insurance policies and other uninsured costs, but not any fines or penalties that might be imposed. [cite web| publisher=Kalmbach Publishing| work=Trains News Wire| url=http://www.trains.com/Content/Dynamic/Articles/000/000/005/692dndks.asp| title=Norfolk Southern estimates Graniteville derailment costs| accessdate=2005-01-27| ]
May 25, 2005, lawyers involved in the damages claims against Norfolk Southern announced that they had reached a preliminary agreement on settlements for area residents and business that were evacuated but did not seek medical attention. In this preliminary settlement, Norfolk Southern would offer each resident who was evacuated and did not seek medical attention within 72 hours of the accident a flat amount of $2,000 for the evacuation plus $200 per person per day of the evacuation. These amounts are separate from any property damage claims. Claims that involve injury or death are not included in this settlement, but are still being negotiated. [cite news| author=Jordan, Jacob, Associated Press| date= May 25, 2005| url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/25/AR2005052500018.html| title=Lawyers for Railroad, S.C. Town Seek Deal| publisher=Washington Post| accessdate=2005-05-25| ]
May 22, 2006, Avondale Mills’ CEO Stephen Felker announced that his firm would close all its plants, corporate and sales offices no later than July 25, throwing more than 4,000 workers across four states out of work. Mr. Felker cited foreign competition and the 2005 derailment as the primary reasons for the company's failure.fact|date=March 2008
Findings and recommendations
November 29 2005, the NTSB issued a report officially blaming the accident on the P22 train crew's failure to reline the switch for mainline operations. The report concluded that neither equipment failure nor crew fatigue or drug or alcohol use was a factor in the accident. It further concluded that the level and immediacy of emergency response to the accident was wholly appropriate for the situation. [cite web| author=United States National Transportation Safety Board| date= November 29 2005| url=http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/2005/RAR0504.htm| title=Report of Railroad Accident: Collision of Norfolk Southern Freight Train 192 with Standing Norfolk Southern Local Train P22 With Subsequent Hazardous Materials Release. Graniteville, South Carolina; January 6, 2005. NTSB/RAR-05/04| accessdate=2005-11-29| ]
As a result of this accident and a similar accident on the
Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railwayon January 8 2005, the United States Federal Railroad Administration(FRA) released to railroads a reminder of federal regulations on procedures for turnout operation and safety procedures. [cite press release| publisher=United States Federal Railroad Administration| date= January 11, 2005| url=http://www.fra.dot.gov/us/press-releasesold/51| title=Switch Safety Guidelines Issued to Railroad Industry to Prevent Train Accidents Caused by Misaligned Switches| accessdate=2006-09-27| ] Among the federal rules regarding turnouts are:
* The normal position for turnouts on mainline tracks is for mainline through traffic.
* When trains are required to clear the mainline track, they will not report that the track is clear until there are no obstructions on the mainline track and all turnouts are set for the mainline position and locked in place.
The FRA further recommended that railroads should:
* ensure that their internal regulations include adequate safety procedures regarding turnout position.
* implement a paper trail to ensure adequate inspection of turnout position before a mainline track is declared cleared.
Avondale Mills filed suit against Norfolk Southern claiming that the railroad was negligent in its operations through Graniteville and that this alleged negligence was the root cause of the accident. After the accident, Avondale Mills was closed, laying off, they claimed in the suit, thousands of employees and paid more than $140 million on clean up and repair expenses. The trial opened on
March 10, 2008, in federal court in Columbia, South Carolina. [cite news| url=http://www.telegram.com/article/20080310/APF/803100676| title=Trial begins for SC textile firm suing railroad after train wreck| date= 2008-03-10| author=Associated Press| publisher=Worcester Telegram & Gazette| accessdate=2008-03-10| ]
April 7 2008, Norfolk Southern and interests representing Avondale Mills, and its surviving entities, reached a confidential out of court settlement. [cite web|title=Norfolk Southern To Settle Claims From Graniteville Accident|publisher=TradingMarkets.com|url=http://www.tradingmarkets.com/.site/news/Stock%20News/1323195/|accessdate=2008-04-24] [cite web|title=Norfolk Southern Reaches Agreement With Avondale Mills to Settle Claims From Graniteville Accident|publisher= Norfolk Southern|url=http://www.nscorp.com/nscportal/nscorp/Media/News%20Releases/2008/agreement.html|accessdate=2008-04-24]
April 24 2008, Norfolk Southern was sued by the U.S. EPA for violations of the Clean Water Act. Possible fines are minimal when compared to the damage to the surrounding environment. [cite news| url=http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/djf500/200804241821DOWJONESDJONLINE001371_FORTUNE5.htm| title=Norfolk Southern 'Disappointed' In DOJ Graniteville Suit| work=CNN Money| date= 2008-04-24| accessdate=2008-04-25| author=Dow Jones Newswires| ] [cite news| url=http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/fn/5729005.html| title=Railroad accused of polluting water in South Carolina wreck| date= 2008-04-24| author=Associated Press| work=Houston Chronicle| accessdate=2008-04-25| ] [cite news| url=http://www.wjbf.com/midatlantic/jbf/news_index.apx.-content-articles-JBF-2008-04-24-0017.html| title=Federal Prosecutors Say Norfolk Southern Should Be Fined For Graniteville Pollution Prosecutors say the train wreck spilled chlorine and diesel fuel into the waterways, near Graniteville, violating the Clean Water Act| publisher=WJBF| author=Putzier, Damon| date= 2008-04-24| accessdate=2008-04-24| ] Horse creek was polluted. Fish died. In a similar lawsuit in Pennsylvania, where a derailed Norfolk Southern runaway train crashed, the state of Pennsylvania sued the railroad for the same type damages, and won several million dollars for environmental remediation.fact|date=April 2008
May 24, 2005, Norfolk Southern was awarded the TRANSCAER National Achievement Award for 2004. TRANSCAER is an acronymfor "Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response", which aims to promote emergency preparedness among first responders and communities for accidents that involve chemical releases. Part of the reasons for NS's selection for this award were the emergency preparedness training that the railroad held in 18 of the 22 states through which the railroad hauls hazardous materials. [cite press release| publisher=American Chemistry Council (reprinted by Norfolk Southern)| date= May 24, 2005| url=http://www.nscorp.com/nscorp/application;JSESSIONID_nscorp=CWtawaarQug0t9xnQ1UcIblLKUtdcKEghLcz4L6tbWAqi8II10ry!529891091?origin=content.jsp&event=bea.portal.framework.internal.refresh&pageid=NS+News&contentId=english/nscorp/news/whats_new/whats_new/news052405.html| title=Norfolk Southern Corporation Receives 2004 TRANSCAER National Achievement Award| accessdate=2005-05-26| ]
Texas folk artist Doug Burr memorialized the Graniteville accident in his song "Graniteville" in his 2007 released album "On Promenade". The song is fictionalized account of a husband attempting to rouse his wife from sleep to escape the dangers of the chemical spill.
* [http://www.ntsb.gov/Pressrel/2005/050106.htm NTSB launches team to freight train collision in South Carolina]
* [http://www.epa.gov/region4/graniteville/index.htm Environmental Protection Agency web page on the Graniteville train disaster]
* [http://www.epa.gov/region4/graniteville/images.htm Environmental Protection Agency public domain photos of the train disaster aftermath]
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