A mechanical issue with a rail car axle caused the fiery derailment of dozens of freight cars in Ohio near the Pennsylvania state line Friday night, federal investigators announced Sunday. The smoldering tangle of cars, some carrying hazardous materials, kept an evacuation order in effect.
Michael Graham, a board member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a news conference that the three-member train crew received an alert about the mechanical defect “shortly before the derailment” but said the board was still working to determine which rail car experienced the issue.
About 50 cars derailed in East Palestine at about 9 p.m. Friday as a train was carrying a variety of products from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania, rail operator Norfolk Southern said. No injuries to crew, residents or first responders have been reported.
Graham said investigators also have identified the exact “point of derailment” but did not disclose the location Sunday. He said information will be included in a preliminary investigative report expected in the next month or so.
East Palestine officials said Sunday that emergency responders were monitoring but keeping their distance from the fire, saying remediation efforts could not begin as long as the cars smoldered. The evacuation covers a 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) radius, as environmental authorities warily watch air quality monitors, officials said.