Train Derailment In West Virginia Injures 3 And Spills Diesel


A train derailment in rural West Virginia early Wednesday morning injured three crew members and spilled diesel fuel into the New River, though officials say they do not believe there is significant danger to the public, despite growing concerns about the safety of American railways after a string of high-profile derailments—including a massive spill in eastern Ohio last month.

Key Facts

A CSX-operated train mainly carrying empty coal cars fell off the tracks near Sandstone, West Virginia, shortly before 5 a.m. after hitting debris on the tracks left by a recent rockslide, according to the company and West Virginia officials.

Three of the six people aboard the train were later treated for non-life threatening injuries, according to CSX.

Parts of the train caught on fire and at least one fuel car fell into the New River as a result of the derailment, spilling an “unknown quantity of diesel fuel and oil,” CSX said in a news release.

The company claims there were no hazardous materials aboard the train and insists there is “no danger to the public,” while West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Terry Fletcher said at a briefing the state is working to “minimize any potential health impacts.”

Crucial Quote

“I know we’re all on heightened alert with all that’s happened in East Palestine, Ohio, but I do think that this situation is under control,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) said Wednesday.

Key Background

Train safety in the U.S. has faced heightened scrutiny since a Norfolk Southern train derailed near East Palestine on February 3, spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals into the environment. Residents of East Palestine have voiced outrage at Norfolk Southern, the federal government and local governments over what they say are continued health problems due to the derailment, even though officials claim the town’s air and water is now safe. The event sparked a political firestorm, as Republicans—like President Donald Trump—said the Biden Administration was slow to acknowledge the severity of the disaster, while the White House attacked Republicans for not enacting tougher railway regulations during the Trump Administration. Train derailments are fairly common, with more than 1,000 reported nationwide every year, but the East Palestine spill has drawn more attention to the incidents. Another Norfolk Southern train derailed in Mingo County, West Virginia, due to a mudslide on February 17, followed by a second Ohio derailment in the city of Springfield on Saturday for reasons not yet clear. No injuries were reported in those two incidents and there did not appear to be major environmental impacts. A Norfolk Southern conductor was killed in Cleveland on Tuesday when a dump truck struck a train at a railway crossing.


Biden said in a statement last week he supports a bipartisan rail safety bill making its way through Congress, which includes new guidelines like heat detectors along every 10 miles of rail line. An initial National Transportation Safety Board investigation did not definitively name a cause for the East Palestine derailment, but it noted a wheel bearing overheated by more than 250 degrees before the crew was alerted.

Further Reading

EPA Orders Norfolk Southern To Pay For Cleanup After Disastrous Ohio Train Derailment (Forbes)

Buttigieg Grilled In East Palestine: Criticizes Trump As Derailment Sparks Partisan Feud (Forbes)

Norfolk Southern Conductor Killed In Third Ohio Incident This Year—Weeks After Massive Chemical Spill (Forbes)