NTSB Probes Norfolk Southern Derailment in Pennsylvania

Cleanup Continues; No Injuries Reported
Norfolk Southern derailment
This photo provided by Nancy Run Fire Company shows a train derailment along a riverbank in Saucon Township, Pa., on Saturday. (Nancy Run Fire Company via AP)

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Three Norfolk Southern trains were involved in a collision and derailment the morning of March 2 in Lower Saucon Township, Pa.

Members of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board were still on site investigating March 3, according to the NTSB. Its team will be on site for several more days, conducting interviews with crew members and obtaining other information that will assist in determining the cause of the accident.

However, it released the site to Norfolk Southern, which is responsible for the cleanup, late March 3. Norfolk Southern has crews and contractors at the derailment site handling cleanup and working to restore the track, according to a statement from the company.

The three-train collision and derailment occurred around 7:15 a.m. March 2 along Riverside Drive.

NTSB’s preliminary investigation indicated an eastbound train hit a train stopped on the same track. The wreckage from the striking train spilled onto an adjacent track and was hit by a westbound train.

An unknown number of cars derailed and two of the trains fell into the Lehigh River. No injuries to train crews or anyone else were reported.

An unknown quantity of diesel fuel and a small quantity of polypropylene pellets also spilled into the Lehigh River. Containment booms were deployed, and according to Norfolk Southern, will remain in place until any residual sheen has been removed. Riverside Drive remains closed while work continues.

In an update March 3, NTSB said its investigation team began reviewing data from the locomotive event recorders and downloaded data from the wayside signals. Data has been sent to NTSB headquarters in Washington for further analysis.

According to an NTSB statement, the next update will not come until the board releases its preliminary report in three weeks. But it could be 12-24 months until NTSB publishes its final report, which will contain a probable cause and any contributing factors NTSB determines led to the crash.

Though no official cause has been established, investment and railway workers groups blame poor management by Norfolk Southern.

On March 2, Ancora Holdings Group, an investors group in Ohio, called for the leadership of Norfolk Southern, specifically CEO Alan Shaw, to be terminated.

In a news release, Ancora said, though it is obligated to pursue optimal returns for its clients, nothing should be prioritized over the well-being of people and communities. But it is becoming increasingly common that Norfolk Southern trains are involved in derailments and tragic events, such as the train derailment in February 2023 in East Palestine, Ohio.

Ancora’s release also states Norfolk Southern has spread misinformation about the company’s safety commitments to regulators and the public.

“An incident like this, which is drawing national news coverage and resulting in more embarrassment for the railroad, should put an end to the board’s unsustainable efforts to save a tainted CEO with no long-term future,” the statement said.

Paul Pokrowka, the state legislative director of Sheet Metal Air Rail Transportation Union, which represents workers in the railroad industry, said Norfolk Southern and other rail companies have placed railway workers under crushing working conditions. By doing so, he said, they created unsafe conditions for workers and communities.

Norfolk Southern did not respond to a request for comment March 3.

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