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NJ Train Derails, Chemical Spill Keeps Residents In

A train carrying vinyl chloride derailed earlier this month in Paulsboro, New Jersey. While no media reports indicate it resulted in hospitalizations, the train accident and subsequent chemical spill has many residents rightfully concerned.

Classes at area schools were canceled and businesses were closed, effectively shutting the town down.

According to the Huffington Post, seven cars of the train were sent off the tracks when it derailed. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating, and there are indications of several previous violations and problems on this specific stretch of track.

In 2009, a coal train derailed when there was a misalignment in the tracks. Also, there have been 23 “trouble tickets” regarding the track within the past year, nine of which occurred between October 27 and November 29.

The track stretches over the Delaware River from the Philadelphia International Airport. It swings out of the way to make room for boaters on Mantua Creek. The “default position” for the bridge between March and November is to remain open to boats. Before crossing, train operators dial in a code to signal the bridge to close.

Early on the morning of the derailment, the rail crew received a notification that the track was about 4 inches off its alignment. After a number of tries, it was realigned and several trains were able to pass. The final train crossed at about 11:15. After the successful crossing, there was an automated message that the “bridge failed to operate,” indicating that it perhaps had trouble opening after the train had passed.

When the soon-to-derail train approached, there was a red signal light. The conductor tried the bridge-opening code several times, but the light remained red. He asked for and was given permission to cross from a train dispatcher. Both engines and six cars safely crossed the bridge, but the final 7 derailed.

“The engineer and conductor are not qualified to determine whether the bridge is safe,” said Bob Comer, a train accident investigator. “The fact that some dispatcher told them to cross, that is outright negligence.”

Terry Williams with the NTSB said the agency is looking at whether the dispatcher was authorized to make the call.

In the meantime, residents of the town wonder about the effects of the chemical spill that warranted the shuttering of their homes. Several days after the accident, clean-up work had to be stopped when the levels of vinyl chloride in the air were at unsafe levels.

When you are hurt, whether on the train or when someone spills a chemical, you deserve justice for your injuries. Let the New York and New Jersey personal injury attorneys of Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., help.