What to Know
- A CSX freight train derailed in Newburgh, New York around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday
- The train was carrying hazardous materials including sulfuric acid, and was leaking fuel from a locomotive
- It was not immediately clear if the derailment led to any injuries
A CSX freight train carrying sulfuric acid and other hazardous materials derailed Tuesday afternoon when it hit a work vehicle that had gotten stuck on the tracks in Newburgh, authorities say.
It appears an equipment loader with a boom got caught on the tracks on River Road, near the line between Newburgh and New Windsor, and the freight train struck it and derailed, according to Brendan Casey, commissioner of emergency services for Orange County.
An employee of Steelways Inc. told the Times-Herald Record that one of his co-workers was driving a forklift across the tracks when he heard the train's whistle and saw the crossing gates come down "really fast," trapping the vehicle on the tracks.
"I screamed for him to get out of the basket," employee Kevin Way said. "There was no way he was going to get off (the tracks) at that point."
Way said the co-worker escaped to safety just before the train struck the forklift. Two crew members suffered minor injuries, according to state police.
CSX said a locomotive was leaking fuel, but that none of the hazardous materials were spilled or leaking.
The train has three locomotives and 77 freight cars in total, the company said, and was traveling from Selkirk, New York to Waycross, Georgia.
Besides the sulfuric acid, it was also carrying sodium hydroxide and corn oil, as well as cardboard and glass.
"Right now the scene is secure, we have the roadway closed," said Casey. "CSX, Federal Railroad Agency, various state agencies are on the scene, and at this point it's really just a cleanup operation to get the train off the roadway and get the rail cars back aligned and move 'em out of the area."
Joni Armstrong was shaken as she recalled driving on the road before suddenly seeing the trains coming toward her.
"I looked in my rearview mirror and saw fire and a train barreling towards my car, and I had a moment of panic thinking, 'Oh, my God, it's gonna hit me,'" she said. "It jumped the tracks and came onto the road and it looked like it was heading straight for the cars."
"If it had gone a few feet further, it would have hit a building," she said. "If it had gone the other way, it would have hit the oil tanks -- which I can't even imagine what that would have done."
CSX says it will use a network of contractors to try to move the cars off the tracks. They'll have specialized equipment, including heavy-duty cranes and bulldozers. If that doesn't work, CSX's team on site will develop an alternative plan.
"At this point it is too soon to say when the recovery will be completed; our teams will work continuously until the task is complete," said CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle.
The area is industrial, with oil and gasoline frequently moving through the area. Authorities conducted a train derailment drill at almost the same exact location last summer, which helped in Tuesday's response.
"We chose this location because for the freight line that runs through Orange County, this is the most populated area and would be the worst case scenario for a derailment," said Casey.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, whose office is blocks from the derailment scene, said in a statement, "While we don't yet know why the train derailed, we do know that outdated train cars barreling down the Hudson River carrying hazardous materials are literally a train wreck waiting to happen."
"We have to get smarter about how we transport crude oil, and invest in installing positive train control on all our trains," he said.
Maloney is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and has been vocal about rail safety.
Another CSX train crash in Biloxi, Mississippi Tuesday killed three people who were on a bus.