| PHILADELPHIA, July 29
PHILADELPHIA, July 29 Federal investigators on
Tuesday blamed inadequate employee training at Conrail for a
November 2012 freight train derailment and toxic spill in
southern New Jersey that sickened residents and forced hundreds
to flee the area.
Four tank cars tumbled into the Mantua Creek in Paulsboro,
New Jersey, where the train had crossed a pivoting bridge
designed to swing open for boat traffic. The bridge had failed
to close properly and swung several inches as the train crossed.
The bridge displayed a red signal, but a Conrail conductor
wrongly determined that locks on the bridge rails were engaged
and got permission to cross, investigators said.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators said
Conrail relied on "on-the-job training" to teach conductors how
to inspect locks on the bridge and that the conductor had never
done such an inspection before.
There were no written instructions and one engineer who
testified said whether or not workers learned to inspect locks
was "random," the investigators said.
The NTSB voted to accept the investigators' findings at a
meeting in Washington, and a final report will be issued in a
few days, it said.
A gash in one of the derailed cars spilled some 20,000
gallons of vinyl chloride, a highly toxic and flammable
Exposure to the chemical can cause respiratory problems,
coughing and light-headedness, according to the New Jersey
Department of Environmental Protection.
More than two dozen residents were hospitalized and some 680
evacuated the area around Paulsboro, a town of 6,100 people that
also is home to two oil refineries as well as chemical plants.
It sits across the Delaware River from the Philadelphia
The NTSB found the bridge had malfunctioned 23 times in the
year preceding the derailment and 11 times in the month before.
One Conrail conductor noticed the locks failed to engage the
day before the crash but by the time a technician arrived, they
had done so, it said.
An engineering consultant hired by Conrail had recommended
that the bridge be taken out of service, but the company
declined to do so.
Conrail no longer allows dispatchers to let trains to pass
red signals, according to investigators.
Conrail, jointly owned by rail operators CSX Corp
and Norfolk Southern Corp, said in a statement that it
regretted the incident and the impact on those affected and it
was committed to the safe operation of its railroad.
"Conrail takes seriously the Board's many findings and
recommendations and we await the NTSB's final report on this
incident," it said. "We will evaluate the NTSB findings and
final report and will implement all appropriate measures."
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Osterman)