Debris From Mudslide Caused CSX Derailment

Federal investigators said a 2020 CSX derailment in Kentucky was likely caused by debris on  the track after a mudslide.

The derailment occurred on Feb. 13, 2020, near Draffin, Kentucky, on a route that is wedged between the Russel Fork River and a hillside.

The mudslide occurred following several weeks of rain, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report released last week.

Investigators said the area had received more than 300 percent of its normal rainfall in the two weeks before the derailment occurred.

Three locomotives, a buffer car and four tank cars derailed. Two of the tank cars released 38,400 gallons of denatured ethanol.

The report said the spilled ethanol combined with diesel fuel from the locomotives and ignited, resulting in a locomotive being destroyed by fire.

The train crew was able to escape through the river and sustained minor injuries.

Although the locomotive engineer applied the train’s emergency brakes, there was not enough time to avoid a collision with the debris on the track.

A weather alert system that CSX relied upon “did not account for the impact of the unusual increases and accumulation of precipitation” over several weeks, and elevated temperatures in the month before the derailment, the NTSB report said.

The NTSB said the severity of the derailment might have been reduced had the two tank cars that spilled ethanol been placed further toward the rear of the train.

The cars were of the USDOT-111 type. The NTSB has in earlier reports made a similar recommendation about the placement of that class of tank cars.

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