Update on Ohio Train Derailment from Federal Investigation

February 23, 2023
Fires burning above the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Photo credit: Misti Allison, February 3, 2023

We call things ‘accidents.’ There is no accident. Every single event that we investigate is preventable.

Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTBS) Jennifer Homendy said Thursday as NTBS released a preliminary report on its investigation into the Ohio train derailment.

Why It Matters: In the NTBS' preliminary report into the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment on February 3, federal investigators found that the Norfolk Southern crew operating the train was alerted of an overheated axle and tried to slow the train, just moments before 38 cars derailed. Two other 'hot bearing detectors' that the train passed did not register a temperature high enough to give the crew an alert.

While the investigation is ongoing, Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted said the preliminary findings of the report "could be the basis for a criminal referral" of Norfolk Southern. In neighboring Pennsylvania – where some residents were also impacted by the evacuation caused by the derailment – Gov. Josh Shapiro has made a criminal referral to the state's attorney general, who is now looking into whether criminal charges are warranted.

Ohio Lt. Gov. Husted said, "This is the railroad's responsibility, and it's up to the government officials at the federal, state and local levels to hold them accountable and do right by the citizens of East Palestine."

Big Picture: On Thursday, Homendy said that when looking at Class 1 freight railroads – which are "the major railroads – we're talking Norfolk Southern, CSX, BNSF, UP …" – there were "868 derailments in 2021, 68 collisions, 330 that are designated as 'other' – a lot of those are obstructions on rail track. And so … I raise that because, we can improve safety in the rail industry … and we have a number of our safety recommendations … that we have been fighting for for decades to get implemented …" Before sharing these figures, she noted that the NTSB does not "have the authority to act on recommendations"; the NTSB only issues safety recommendations "to the entities that might be involved."

NTBS Briefing on East Palestine Derailment (WTAE-TV Pittsburgh)

NTBS: No alert for train crew until just before derailment (The Associated Press)

Here's the National Transportation Safety Board's Preliminary Report

Plus ~ Check out Jenna's interview with four mothers impacted by the train derailment: "We just want to know the truth, and we want to know if our family is safe," explains Heather Beresford, one of four mothers who joined SmartHER News for a wide-ranging conversation from those who experienced the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, first hand.

WATCH HERE or tap screen below – Also available on podcasting platforms everywhere or direct download HERE

Photo Credit: Misti Allison, February 3, 2023, East Palestine, Ohio

by Jenna Lee,