Ohio train derailment model has troubled history

November 27, 2013 (WILLARD, Ohio)

These are the same tanker cars that you see criss-crossing Chicago and the suburbs. And if Wednesday's derailment and evacuation in the Midwest seems like an instant replay, that is because there have been others. The I-Team reported a few weeks ago on recent accidents, explosions and deaths resulting from ruptures, that experts said were the result of design flaws in the Dot-111 model cars.

Now, in a small Ohio town southeast of Toledo, Thanksgiving has been put on hold.

Four of the controversial railroad tankers derailed in a CSX switching yard in Willard, Ohio. Emergency responders say the leak was plugged after a few hours, but not before more than 12,000 gallons of styrene monomer leaked from a gaping hole. That is a chemical compound used by many manufacturers in the production of rubber and plastic. It is a flammable liquid and moderately toxic.

The cause of the accident isn't known - the latest in a string of mishaps that have recently resulted in dangerous fires, such as one derailment in Rockford, and deaths, including 47 who died last summer in a derailment and explosion near Montreal.

The I-Team's investigation this month found that government inspectors recommended safety and design changes in the thousands of Dot-11 tankers 20 years ago. A government committee is now considering ordering changes, and an industry association has just come out in support of retrofitting thousands of cars.

It will be at least Thanksgiving Day before residents are allowed to return home, having been evacuated from their homes in a town where the motto "We're on track" painfully, does not apply.

In a town promotion video, a couple of those tankers are visible at the top of the picture. If safety retrofitting of those cars is ordered, it won't be until next year. Until then, safety experts say these accidents are likely to continue. The timing of this one is particularly bad. CSX Railroad officials say they will provide Thanksgiving dinner Thursday afternoon at the Willard High School for evacuees.

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