NTSB Focusing on Wheel Bearings Following Train Derailment

East Palestine, Ohio. (Courtesy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

(The Center Square) – The National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report released Thursday morning it found a wheel bearing nearing failure moments before a Feb. 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

That derailment caused hazardous materials to be leaked from railcars and a 1-mile evacuation in the small town along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. Residents continue to express concern about air and water quality. At the same time, reports from the U.S. and Ohio environmental protection agencies show no signs of harmful contaminants in the air or water.

The NTSB report said “surveillance video from a local residence showed what appeared to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment.”

The wheel bearing and affected wheelset have been collected as evidence and will be further examined by the NTSB, the report said. Also, the top fittings are being shipped to Texas for testing.

Investigators examined the first car that derailed, which was the 23rd car in line. Investigators returned to the site Tuesday and examined each hazardous material tank car, documenting damage and securing evidence.

“The NTSB’s investigation is ongoing. Future investigative activity will focus on the wheelset and bearing; tank car design and derailment damage; a review of the accident response, including the venting and burning of the vinyl chloride; railcar design and maintenance procedures and practices; [Norfolk Southern’s] use of wayside defect detectors; and NS railcar inspection practices,” the report said.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg plans to visit with residents of East Palestine today.

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