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Ohio train traveled 20 miles with fiery axle before derailing, footage shows

The axle appeared to be on fire for at least an hour before the derailment.

Published: February 13, 2023 2:31pm

Updated: February 13, 2023 3:46pm

The freight train that derailed earlier this month near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border and turned into a smoldering, days-long HAZMAT situation traveled at least 20 miles beforehand with an axle that appeared to be on fire, security camera footage shows. 

The train passed through a hot box detector, which checks the axle temperature for overheating, while its axle was on fire in Salem, Ohio, more than an hour before it arrived in East Palestine, Ohio, where the derailment occurred, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Friday.

The train crew had received an alert shortly before the Feb. 3 derailment, but it is unclear when the alert came through.

Security cameras at two Salem industrial plants captured the axle blazing as it passed.

The wreckage remained on fire for several days after the derailment, with several train cars carrying the toxic and potentially explosive chemical vinyl chloride so dangerous that officials created a one-mile evacuation zone.  

Retired Norfolk Southern engineer Dan Cupper told the newspaper that it would take about a mile or more for the train that derailed in East Palestine to stop. He said the train conductor and dispatcher should have been alerted to the issue.

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the probe into the incident. The board's spokesperson, Jennifer Gabris, said: "Investigators will check all the alarms and detectors to determine if they were or were not functioning properly."

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