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Federal official: CSX train going 33 mph in 50-mph zone prior to derailment

FAYETTE COUNTY, W.Va. — A CSX train hauling Bakken crude oil was traveling well below the 50 mile-per-hour speed limit when 27 tanker cars derailed near Montgomery on Monday, according to the acting head of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Sarah Feinberg confirmed on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline” the train was going 33 mph at the time of the derailment in the Mount Carbon community. That information came from the train’s event recorder, which captured data from the 109-car train at the time of the derailment.

Th recorder offered some clues but “nothing particularly remarkable” in terms of identifying potential causes of the accident and subsequent explosions that destroyed one house and sent flames hundreds of feet into the air, Feinberg said.

“We’ll be looking at rail condition. We’ll be looking at wheels. We’ll be looking at all of those infrastructure clues,” she said.

As of Thursday morning, several small fires were still burning in some of the cars at the derailment scene. The fires were under control, Feinberg said, as crude oil continued to burn off.

“We may look at some other tactics (for) trying to get those fires out. We don’t want to run any risks to the Kanawha River, but we could possibly put a chemical agent, a dry chemical agent on those fires, to get those fires out,” she said.

The derailment site is along Armstrong Creek, a tributary for the Kanawha River. Containment booms remained in the river Thursday.

Once the fires are out, Feinberg said the remaining crude oil would be pumped out of the overturned tanker cars so the cars could be uprighted and removed from the scene. They’ll be used to reconstruct the accident at another location as part of the larger federal investigation.

“It literally will look like a jigsaw puzzle and we’ll put it back together,” Feinberg said. “That doesn’t mean we won’t necessarily pick up a lot of clues before that is all completed.”

Feinberg, a West Virginia native, oversees the Federal Railroad Administration, which regulates rail freight and passenger service across the U.S.

Other agencies involved in the response include the U.S. Coast Guard, CSX, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the West Virginia Department of Environmental, the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, the National Guard along with others.

The FRA released additional information Thursday night:

–Smoldering fires at the scene of the accident continue.

–Emergency first responders are still working on containing and treating spilled oil product, testing air and water quality and working to extinguish the fire.

–Thursday, the response team rerailed all but one of the derailed cars that had been involved in fire and CSX continued off-loading product from damaged rail cars.

–PHMSA is prepared to test oil samples from affected and unaffected rail cars as soon as it is possible.

–The Joint Unified Command, led by the U.S. Coast Guard lifted an evacuation ban for the community of Boomer Bottom across the river from the derailment site.¬† Evacuations for other affected communities remain in effect.

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