NTSB holds East Palestine train derailment investigative hearings

East Palestine
East Palestine(Source: WOIO)
Updated: Jun. 22, 2023 at 4:00 AM EDT
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EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WOIO) - The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Friday continues its two-day investigative hearings in East Palestine.


The hearings will focus on the Feb. 3 train derailment that led to the deaths of over 40,000 aquatic life, the evacuation of hundreds of families and the contamination of over 20 million gallons of water and 75 tons of soil.

Gov. Mike DeWine issued an urgent evacuation notice for residents living in a 1-mile radius of the derailment on Feb. 5, one day prior to the controlled release of the toxic chemical vinyl chloride.

Vinyl chloride, a chemical known to cause cancer in humans, is “near the top of the list” of the most dangerous chemicals that could be involved in a train derailment, according to a Case Western Reserve University environmental engineer.

Residents attending the hearings spoke with 19 News reporters. Some like Cliff Dilling believe the derailment and its impact could have been avoided: “There’s some open spaces here they could’ve stopped, and this would’ve never happened. What are you going to do? It’s just part of the animal that’s happening here.”

Others like Robin Seman hope further actions are taken: “the biggest thing is that there’s not been a site assessment. How are we making it right when we don’t know what you’re making right?”

The NTSB on Feb. 14 said an overheated wheel bearing caused the derailment in its preliminary report on the toxic derailment.

Residents continued seeing the massive effects of the chemical release in the weeks following the derailment, including the deadly impact on local wildlife and the impact on drinking water.

Ohio AG Dave Yost on March 14 filed a lawsuit on the state’s behalf against Norfolk Southern, the company being held responsible for the derailment.

The state filed its lawsuit days after U.S. Senate held hearings on the company.

The March 9 hearing in Washington DC led by bothSherrod Brown (D-OH) and J.D. Vance (R-OH) focused on health concerns created by the derailment.

“Senator Vance and I are both listening to the same Ohioans in this community,” Brown said in part during the hearing, attended by 19 News. “[...] People who feel like they have no way to stand up to a company like Norfolk Southern.”

The U.S. Department of Justice also filed a federal lawsuit against Norfolk Southern on March 31, three weeks after the U.S. Senate held hearings on the company.

Norfolk Southern on June 2 filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit; however, it has not been ruled on.

Norfolk Southern took a $387 million hit in their first-quarter earnings after the EPA ordered the company to pay for the cleanup efforts.

“I hope this opens the eyes of the law on things that are happening here,” Dilling said, “and I’m sure down the road it’ll be taken care of.”

“These hearings, and the hundreds of pages of evidence released, confirm what we learned from the NTSB’s preliminary report — there’s no time to wait to improve the safety standards of our nation’s railroads. I want to thank the NTSB for their ongoing work investigating the derailment in East Palestine, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to prevent the next disaster by passing the Railway Safety Act.”

Senator JD Vance (R-OH)

This is a developing story. Return to 19 News for updates.