Harrisburg train derailment investigation could take a month

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – It could take several weeks for eight box cars to be removed after a Tuesday train derailment in Harrisburg. Norfolk Southern re-railed one of the box cars, but the other eight are still on their side.

Nine empty rail cars flipped the tracks near the Mulberry Street Bridge Tuesday morning and delayed hundreds of Amtrak passengers. The track was closed for about 10 hours. Investigators were out again Wednesday trying to figure out what happened.

ABC27 News spoke to Harrisburg Fire Chief Brian Enterline after the derailment on Tuesday. He said the communication from Norfolk Southern was poor.

“Even if it’s empty cars, we need to know about it, and we are going to be demanding that from Norfolk Southern.”

Enterline was disheartened because he says Norfolk Southern didn’t notify him for the second time. Another Norfolk Southern derailment happened back in November.

Norfolk Southern Public Relations Manager Dave Pidgeon sent an e-mail to Enterline saying he wants to have a “close and collaborative” relationship in the future.

“We fully understand and appreciate where Chief Enterline is coming from. It’s important to understand that this incident involved no release of any material, hazmat or non-hazmat. There were no injuries and no impact on public safety,” Pidgeon said.

Norfolk Southern engineers looked at the track and determined it had only minimal damage. It remains open, but the investigation is ongoing.

“You’re dealing with heavy pieces of machinery that can weigh several tons, and it’s not something that can be taken lightly,” Pidgeon said.

The speed limit where the derailment happened is 10 miles per hour. The investigation will determine how fast the train was going.

“What’s important is that the investigation be thorough,” Pidgeon said. “We owe the Federal Railroad Administration a report on the last day of the month following the derailment, so, in this case, it would be the end of June.”

Pidgeon says it difficult to notify fire departments because their coverage area is so large.

“Norfolk Southern operates in 47 different counties in Pennsylvania, so to streamline reporting, we’ve been working in a great partnership with PEMA on that, but again, if the Chief has a question, has heard about a possible derailment, he is welcome to contact me.”

Norfolk Southern says they would call 911 after a derailment if there was a fire or some impact on the public. They say the May 31 derailment happened on private property and had no public safety impact.


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