In just over a year, North America has seen a dozen serious accidents involving trains that derailed while carrying flammable crude oil. One of those accidents, in Lynchburg, caused a massive fire and oil spill. In most cases, fire departments didn’t know what they were dealing with, since railroads have kept that information secret, but the federal government is now requiring them to inform states when trains of 35 cars or more, carrying oil from North Dakota or Montana, are coming through.
Within hours of a rail crash in Lynchburg on April 30, inspectors for the state and federal governments and CSX were on the scene – trying to figure out why 17 cars derailed and one ruptured – producing flames, smoke and a significant oil spill.
Getting official answers could take 18 months, but there are clues that suggest a cause for the accident and a future course of action to improve rail safety.