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Sewickley Train Derailment & Fire Cleanup Continues

SEWICKLEY (KDKA) - Crews were back out Thursday morning trying to cleanup a train derailment and fire in Sewickley.

According to officials, the incident happened around 2 p.m. Wednesday near 26 Chadwick Street.

Norfolk Southern said one of its freight trains carrying empty ethanol cars crashed into a parked train along the tracks. As a result, three locomotives were derailed on the moving train and a flat car also derailed on the parked train.

"Why it happened is under investigation," said Norfolk Southern spokesperson Rudy Husband. "We had representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration on site last night and we're certainly cooperating with them in any aspects of what they're looking at."

Track speed at the time of impact is also part of the investigation. Husband said the speed through that rail area is 50 miles per hour.

The train that caused the accident was carrying mostly empty cars. However, they usually carried ethanol and there was some concern that led to the evacuation of several businesses in the area.

"There is a percentage of product still in that car. So, that still presents a potential for ignition and have a fire so we still treat that with care," Allegheny County Emergency Services Director Alvin Henderson said.

In addition to the derailment, 6,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled in the area.

"We are going to have to remediate the soil that the diesel fuel is on and that's going to take some time because this area actually has a lot of fiber-optic cable running through it. So, it's not that we can just come in with bulldozers and backhoes and just start digging. We have to be surgical about that process," Husband said.

Husband says none of the fuel reached the river on the other side of the tracks, but booms were put in the river just in case. Officials said about 280 feet of the track was also damaged and equipment was brought in Thursday morning to make those repairs.

"Between the damaged locomotives, the car, the remediation with the soil, the track work. Yeah, this is a very expensive proposition," said Husband.

Train traffic was still able to move through the area on the other two tracks, traveling at reduced speeds. Norfolk Southern was hoping to have the damaged track reopened Thursday.

The derailment Wednesday and the CSX train fire earlier this week has prompted questions about rail safety, but Husband said it's never been safer.

"The rail industry has a safety record that is admirable. Over the last two-plus decades train accident rates have actually declined by about 79 percent," he said.

A conductor and an engineer were injured in the crash. The injuries are not believed to be life-threatening and at least one has been treated and released from the hospital.

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