State Police: ‘Close To A Miracle’ More People Weren’t Hurt In Newburgh Train Derailment

NEWBURGH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — It was “close to a miracle” that more people didn’t get hurt when a CSX freight train derailed in Newburgh after colliding with an articulating boom lift, a New York State Police captain said Wednesday.

Crews are continuing efforts to remove the derailed train after it jumped the tracks on Tuesday.

The train was heading from the Albany area to Georgia when it struck a 135-foot articulating boom lift operated by Steelways Inc. that got trapped on the tracks when the crossing gates came down.

“For unknown reasons, that boom lift became disabled on the tracks. The operator of the boom lift departed that vehicle, obviously observing the impending impact,” New York State Captain Richard Mazzone said Wednesday. “The lead freight train subsequently struck that boom lift.”

Mazzone said the train pushed the boom lift down the tracks, ultimately destroying it. The train then derailed and ended up straddling both lanes of River Road, stopping just shy of the Global Diesel fuel terminal building.

“During that derailment, the freight cars and the tankers, they struck two pieces of CSX maintenance equipment that were on an adjacent track,” Mazzone said, adding that two employees who were operating the equipment were treated for injuries.

He said the train’s conductor and an engineer were also treated for minor injuries.

“Close to a miracle and we’re very thankful that we didn’t have any other vehicles or other persons that were injured or struck in this incident,” Mazzone said. “It could have been worse than it actually is.”

Mazzone added that of the 16 cars that derailed, five of them were tankers.

CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle said the train was carrying sulfuric acid, sodium hydroxide, cardboard, corn oil and glass products.

Initially, there was concern over possible leaking sulfuric acid, but Mazzone said the only leak was diesel fuel from ruptured tanks on the freight cars that derailed.

“We ultimately determined that none of the tankers were compromised,” he said. “They were not leaking any hazardous materials.”

Everyone who responded to the emergency wondered what would’ve happened if this had been an oil train carrying Bakken crude from upstate.

Rockland County Executive Ed Day says he thinks the freights are moving too fast through populated areas.

“My concern is next time it could be something far worse and it could be here in Rockland County,” Day told CBS2’s Lou Young.

Oil trains are of special concern because of accidents like the fiery oil train derailment in Quebec just over three years ago that killed 40 people. Since then, newer, stronger tank cars have yet to come online.

Critics say the railroad resists the idea of slowing down because of the increasing level of traffic.

The owner of Steelways told CBS2’s Magdalena Doris it is typical for equipment to cross the tracks and that trains usually sound three loud whistles. On Tuesday, he said he only heard one whistle before the impact.

Police said their investigation indicates something different.

“We believe that the train was certainly sounding its horn and following railway regulations,” Mazzone said.

Critics say the railroad resists the idea of slowing down because of the increasing level of traffic on the freight path, known as the River Line. Police estimate the tracks will reopen by Thursday afternoon, as will River Road.

Commuters will not be impacted since rail passengers travel on the other side of the Hudson.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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