Curtis Tate Published

Confusion Reigned After Ohio Derailment, Hazmat Chief Testifies

A burned up railroad tank car is seen behind a yellow piece of construction equipment in East Palestine, Ohio.
The cleanup continues from the Feb. 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
Oliver Morrison/WESA

A Pennsylvania first responder told a U.S. Senate committee there was a lot of confusion in the aftermath of a train derailment last month in Ohio.

Eric Brewer, director of emergency services for Beaver County, Pennsylvania, said the decision to detonate five tank cars full of flammable vinyl chloride was poorly communicated.

Brewer testified to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Thursday about the Feb. 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern freight train in East Palestine, Ohio, 1,000 feet from the state line.

Initially, he said he understood that only one car would be detonated. But the plan changed, with little communication.

“The decision to go from the one tank car to the five was jaw-dropping,” he said, “just because of the impact it had.”

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw testified that the decision was made by the incident commander, the East Palestine fire chief.