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Conrail Fires Crew Of Derailed Train

May 9, 1987

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Conrail has fired three crew members aboard one of two Conrail freight trains that derailed last month and spewed toxic fumes that forced the evacuation of about 16,000 residents, railroad union officials said.

Jack Arnold, vice general chairman of the United Transportation Union, said Conrail ″railroaded its own employees″ by firing them Friday. He said the company used the crew as a scapegoat in the April 11 derailment.

Conrail declined to comment on the dismissals.

″We do not comment on personnel matters,″ said Conrail spokesman Chris Mykrantz.

Conrail representatives delivered notices of the firings to the crew members’ homes Friday, said Gary Galvin, chairman of UTU Local 1380.

Conrail has never stated specifically how the derailment occurred, other than to say two cars from the westbound train derailed and crashed into the oncoming freight. Company officials have said, however, that ″human error″ may have led to the accident.

Conrail has told federal investigators that event recorders, similar to planes’ black boxes, show the westbound train may have been traveling twice the 30 mph speed limit before it derailed.

Thirty-four cars derailed, including a tanker that leaked phosphorus oxychloride.

The fired crew members were on the westbound train. No action was taken against the four crew members on the eastbound train.

Conductor Bill Winland of Wellsville, Ohio, engineer Scott Hautz of Harrisburg and brakeman Robert Corey of Pittsburgh had been suspended without pay since April 15, according to Arnold.

Conrail conducted an internal hearing on the matter from April 21 to April 30, but has not released a transcript of the findings and has not commented on the proceedings.

The Federal Railroad Administration has not yet released the results of drug and alcohol tests performed on crew members.

No serious injuries were reported as a result of the leaking gas, an additive for gasoline and hydraulic fluid that vaporizes when it hits the air and turns to acid in the lungs.

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