NTSB releases report on August 2 train derailment; reveals details leading up to crash

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BEDFORD COUNTY, Pa. — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its preliminary report Monday on the August 2 train derailment in Hyndman Borough.

An investigation into the cause of the derailment continues but we do know what transpired leading up to it.

The report says that two crews were involved in the movement of the train before the accident.

According to the NTSB, the train stopped on a descending grade after crews noticed air brake problems. While inspecting and recharging the system, the crew applied 58 hand brakes. An air leak was found, a mechanical employee was called and the issue was resolved. But because the crew did not have enough duty time to finish the trip, a new train crew had to take over.

The 58 hand brakes remained in place as the second crew thought the train was still encountering air brake problems — they then tried to pull the train down the hill. From that point until the train derailed, the conductor released a number of hand brakes and switched from locomotive power to dynamic braking three times, the report says.

As the train was going around a curve, the 35th railcar — out of 178 total — derailed one set of its wheels. It then moved further off the track once it reached a highway-railroad grade cross, resulting in the derailment.

A total of 33 railcars were derailed — 15 of which were transporting hazardous materials at the time. Three contained propane, eight contained molten sulfur, two contained asphalt and two more contained phosphoric acid residue. Three tanks released propane, sulfur and asphalt — the propane and sulfur caught fire.

Several railcar wheels had flat spots and built-up tread from the hand brakes not allowing the wheels to rotate, according to the report.

No injuries or fatalities occurred but 1,000 residents within a 1-mile radius were evacuated — the evacuation was lifted on August 5.