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Trains collide, derail in Montgomery County

Amtrak suspends service, Route 5 closed

Thursday, June 27, 2013
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State and local officials assess the damage resulting from a collision of two CSX freight trains June 27 in the town of Mohawk, a mile west of Fonda, that included cars being thrown onto Route 5.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
State and local officials assess the damage resulting from a collision of two CSX freight trains June 27 in the town of Mohawk, a mile west of Fonda, that included cars being thrown onto Route 5.

— Two trains derailed after sideswiping each other near Fonda on Thursday, causing a diesel fuel leak but no serious injuries, authorities said.

“There is no indication that the fuel has reached the Mohawk River,” said state Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman Rick Georgeson. “As a precaution, the local fire department has placed absorbent booms in the river to absorb any fuel that may reach the river.”

Just before 8 a.m. Thursday, two CSX freight trains made contact while passing each other about a mile west of Fonda, according to officials. A segment of Route 5 between Route 10 in Palatine Bridge and Cayadutta Street in Fonda was closed after the accident and will be remain closed until at least 8 a.m. today, officials said.

Amtrak service west of Albany was temporarily suspended as a result of the incident, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. It was not clear when that service might resume. Buses are being used to carry some passengers between Buffalo and Albany.

At the time of the crash, one train was traveling east from Avon, Ind., to Selkirk with four locomotives and 126 freight cars. The other was westbound from Selkirk to New Castle, Pa., with two locomotives and 83 cars.

A total of four engines and 45 cars were derailed, CSX reported.

A conductor and an engineer were taken by ambulance to a local hospital with minor injuries.

“But they’re going to be fine,” Montgomery County Sheriff Michael Amato said at a 10 a.m. news conference at the scene.

Spill concerns

Initially, Montgomery County Emergency Management Director Adam Schwabrow said there were concerns of a chemical spill. Some kind of synthetic pellets were spilling from a ruined car.

“We had hazmat on the scene right away,” he said.

Hazmat crews later ruled out a chemical spill, however, as the pellets were not toxic, according to Schwabrow.

“There are chemicals on the train,” he said, “but we have the manifests and checked the cars carrying chemicals. They’re all solid.”

Georgeson confirmed, “The cars that contain hazardous materials are upright and have been inspected and do not appear to be leaking.”

One fuel-additive-residue car turned on its side during the crash, but wasn’t leaking, according to Georgeson, and it is being monitored by CSX along with the other chemical cars.

As for the leaking fuel, two DEC spill responders and a conservation officer were dispatched to the scene, as well as environmental specialist cleanup crews from CSX.

Undersheriff Jeff Smith said the segment of Route 5 in the vicinity of the crash will remain closed until CSX crews remove debris and a train car from the road. He said Thursday afternoon the work might be done by this morning, but could also take longer.

“It’s cleanup at this point,” he said.

By late Thursday morning, firefighters on the scene stripped off their heavy protective gear and drank bottles of water, the high-stress part of their jobs complete. Hazmat technicians pushed back the hoods of their jumpsuits and strolled around the wreckage through inches of mud thrown from a drainage ditch by sliding train cars.

A few people climbed up the tilted roof of a locomotive with one end buried in a drainage ditch.

Farther west, a single freight car sat on its side in the road, surrounded by its cargo.

By 10:30 a.m. CSX crews had heavy equipment arriving at the scene on wide-load semi trucks.

The cause of the crash was under investigation by five FRA inspectors at the scene.

“Working with CSX, our investigation will establish the cause of the accident,” FRA spokesman Kevin Thompson said in a statement. “[We’ll] determine if any federal regulations were violated and will prescribe any mitigation efforts.”

 
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