Curtis Tate Published

CSX Train Derails In New River Gorge, Injuring 3 Railroad Workers

A CSX coal train ,with black cars and yellow letting, passes the concrete station platform at Charleston on an early spring day.
A CSX train passes the station platform at Charleston.
Curtis Tate / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A CSX train derailed early Wednesday in the New River Gorge, but no life-threatening injuries or hazardous materials were involved, according to the railroad.

In a statement, CSX said a 109-car empty coal train struck a rock slide before 5 a.m. near Sandstone.

The train’s four locomotives derailed and one caught fire. One locomotive and one fuel tank went into the river, according to the West Virginia Emergency Management Division.

Three crew members were on board – an engineer, a conductor and an engineer trainee. All three were injured, CSX said, though to what extent was not immediately clear.

The railroad said an unknown quantity of diesel fuel spilled and that it would deploy containment measures in the New River.

The Department of Health and Human Resources notified local water systems that could be affected. West Virginia American Water is monitoring water quality and has not shut down any intakes.

Amtrak’s Cardinal was canceled in both directions through West Virginia because of the derailment.

The CSX derailment comes as another big eastern railroad, Norfolk Southern, faces intense scrutiny of its safety culture following a series of recent incidents.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Tuesday that it is investigating Norfolk Southern’s safety practices. The investigation follows two high-profile derailments in Ohio, including the one in East Palestine last month and another over the weekend in Springfield.

A Norfolk Southern conductor was also killed on the job Tuesday in Cleveland.

The NTSB sent teams to investigate all three Ohio incidents. Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw is scheduled to testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Thursday.

“We must do better in terms of rail safety,” tweeted Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, the ranking member of the committee.

In February 2015, a CSX train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed in Mount Carbon, resulting in explosions and fires. Hundreds of local residents were evacuated, and one home was destroyed.

The derailment released 362,000 gallons of crude oil, according to a Federal Railroad Administration report.

In 2018, CSX reached a settlement in which it paid $1.2 million to the federal government and $1 million to West Virginia over the derailment’s impact to water quality in the area.

Investigators determined that a broken rail caused the Mount Carbon derailment.