A small town near the Maryland-Pennsylvania border on August 2, 2017, nearly became the latest casualty of a hazmat train derailment and fire. The incident in the Bedford County, PA, town of Hyndman shares frightening parallels with a tragedy that occurred in Greeneville, South Carolina (SC) in 2005.
In that earlier wreck, a Norfolk Southern train released toxic chlorine gas that killed two, poisoned dozens and left much of Greeneville uninhabitable for days. Our Virginia-based train crash lawyers are proud to have helped some of the victims of that deadly derailment and chemical cloud release receive compensation and damages from the negligent railroad corporation.
Now, a CSX freight train has gone off the rails about 100 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Fortunately, all 900-plus Hyndman residents survived. One family lost a detached garage and suffered damage to their home from the fire that erupted as derailed tanker cars spilled molten sulphur and released propane. Fires burned for more than 48 hours after the 5 am crash because fire crews considered them too dangerous to fight.
The compete evacuation of Hyndman lasted three days. Many people spent much of that time away from their homes without pets and lacking essential medications like insulin. Displaced residents did receive financial assistance from CSX for food and hotels, but the rail company remains liable for making up business and wage losses. Property damages and other types of insurance claims are likely to pile up for month. They may remain unresolved for years. The Norfolk Southern derailment in Greeneville happened in 2005, but settlements were still being reached in 2010.
My Virginia personal injury and wrongful death attorney colleagues and I know firsthand the dangers posed by trains transporting hazardous materials. Even in the wake of fatal accidents like the one in Greeneville and an even more-deadly oil train explosion in Quebec, railroads and federal regulators have acted slowly to improve safety. We are glad that the worst did not happen in Bedford County, PA, but we fear that the occurrence of some preventable hazmat train tragedy is just a matter of time.