Related topics

Freight Trains Collide Head-on; At Least One Killed

August 20, 1996

SMITHFIELD, W.Va. (AP) _ Two freight trains collided head-on early today, killing one crew member and trapping another in the wreckage, police said. Two people were injured.

The engine of one of the CSX Transportation Inc. trains derailed at about 5 a.m. and one car landed in a creek. The other engine and 41 cars remained on the track, officials said.

``It’s an unbelievable pileup. One of the engines is mashed on top of the other,″ said Gladys Hendershot, whose home is about 150 feet from the derailment site.

The trapped person was inside one engine and ``very possibly″ was dead, said Carla Morris, spokeswoman for the Wetzel County Office of Emergency Services. The two injured men were taken to a hospital in Clarksburg.

``The engine is in flames,″ she said. ``We put it out, it’s under control, but when the water goes off of it, it rekindles.″

The accident occurred along a highway about a mile outside this northwestern West Virginia community of 200 people, about 95 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. There were no plans to evacuate, said state police spokewoman Karen Ann Simsen.

``It sounded like a great big bomb going off,″ said Mrs. Hendershot, who had awakened before the collision. ``I looked out the door and there was a great big flame shooting straight up in the air. There was too much heat, you couldn’t get near the trains.″

At least one of the trains spilled polyvinyl chloride pellets, Morris said.

Polyvinyl chloride is a general term for a number of vinyl chloride polymers, which are used in a variety of plastics products.

In liquid form, it is flammable and releases hydrochloric acid when burned. In its dry form, it would be hazardous if mixed with diesel fuel, but Simsen said diesel oil spilled by the wreck had not come in contact with the pellets.

Mrs. Hendershot said she was told her family was in no danger from the chemical.

Both trains were on a line between Grafton and New Martinsville. One was destined for Clarksburg, about 20 miles to the southeast, while the second was coming from there, Morris said.

Kathy Burns, spokeswoman for CSX in Jacksonville, Fla., had no immediate comment.

Hazardous materials specialists were on the scene. One lane of adjacent state highway 20 was closed.

Update hourly