Train derails, spills load

Published 1:38 pm Wednesday, December 3, 2003

By By Chuck Bodiford Publisher
Sunday morning, a train loaded with coal left Birmingham, with Mobile as its destination. Unfortunately, the train was unable to keep its intended schedule because of an accident that occurred approximately four miles outside of Atmore. Just after leaving Canoe, headed toward Atmore, the train conductor experienced probably every conductor's worst nightmare as many of his rail cars began to derail.
The CSX train, made up of three locomotives and 95 rail cars, came to a screeching halt Sunday morning. At approximately 9 a.m. emergency officials received word to respond to the site where 29 of the cars had derailed. Fire personnel from both Atmore and Waubeek responded, as did members of the Atmore Police Department, Escambia County Sheriff's Department, and Alabama State Troopers. CSX investigators arrived on the scene later, after they were notified.
Atmore Mayor Howard Shell said, " It is always unfortunate when a train derailment occurs, but the city of Atmore and the surrounding communities are very fortunate that the accident occurred in that particular location." Shell went on to say, " There were no rail cars in the highway or major damage to the surrounding properties. Five minutes later and the train could have been in downtown Atmore. (We're) Not for sure what happened, but we are glad no one was injured."
Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith continued on those lines. "This isn't a Hazmat issue, so the people and environment are not in any particular danger. However, this is going to take awhile to clean up so I would ask that everyone driving watch out for workers crossing the road and for the cars in front of them."
David Jennings, director of the Emergency Management Authority, agreed with Smith. "The spill that occurred was non-hazardous since it was only coal and proved no threat to the community. We should be very fortunate that the spill was only coal. Toxins are transported every day through our area by way of both trains and tractor-trailers," Jennings said. " CSX has gone above and beyond the necessary requirements to make sure that this problem is handled correctly. Their primary concern at this moment is making the track usable, since it is a main component reaching locations such as Mobile, Tallahassee, New Orleans and Atlanta. After the track is repaired so that trains can begin using the track once again, the CSX crew will focus on clean up," Smith said. I have the highest confidence in the world that in about two to four weeks after clean up begins that the area will be returned to its natural state."
Gary Sease, a spokesman for CSX, said, " Repair to the tracks will take the balance of the week. Currently a sidetrack is being tied into the main line. At this time we are waiting on a switch component arriving Thursday to complete this repair. For safety, we will travel this area of tracks at a reduced rate of speed. The investigation is still ongoing and usually takes a matter of weeks for the exact cause (to be determined)."

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