Coal Train Derails in Ohio

With just seconds to spare, Robert Vanhorn and his wife heard the sound of a train coming off the tracks, grabbed the dog and ran for their lives.

It was just in the nick of time as a Conrail coal train derailed on Sunday afternoon and slammed into their Baltimore, Ohio, home. No one was injured.

Thirty-two cars of the 105-car coal train left the tracks with the scattered cars looking like an accordion from the air.

An outside wall of the Vanhorn house was destroyed, with the entire structure getting pushed six feet off its foundation. The derailed train also destroyed a car and storage shed belonging to the couple.

A nearby residence and tractor-trailer owned by Carl Call also were damaged. It was not known if Call's home was occupied at the time.

Neighbor Roy Collier said he helped the Vanhorns get out through a window.

"I smelled a gas leak and told her to run," he said. "It looked like a war zone."

The odor forced the evacuation of about 75 people from their homes for about two hours. They were allowed to return around 6:30 p.m. Residents from several nearby homes were evacuated because of downed power lines.

A spokesman for Conrail, said the train originated in Charleston, WV ,and was headed for Ashtabula in northeastern Ohio. The train had two locomotives with the remaining 103 cars all filled with coal. It's not known what caused the accident or how long it will take to clear away the mess and repair the tracks.

The crossing was expected to remain closed to motor-vehicle traffic until Tuesday morning. It was not known when the tracks will reopen to train traffic.

Baltimore is about 25 miles east of Columbus in central Ohio.

The train's conductor told Conrail investigators the cause may have been a broken rail in the intersection on the edge of town, about 25 miles east of Columbus.

The derailment started with the fourth car from the front of train, which was carrying four people.

The speed limit for trains traveling through Baltimore is 40 mph. Conrail police Capt. Jim Sturm said the train's speed was unknown; but a speed-recording device was being retrieved from the train and taken to Columbus, where it will be analyzed.

Sturm said some maintenance work on the track had been done earlier in the week. About four to six trains travel the track daily.