Aiken Co. sheriff reacts to Abbeville train wreck, reflects on lessons learned from Graniteville

By: Sheli Muniz Email
By: Sheli Muniz Email
Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt reacts to Abbeville train wreck, reflects on Graniteville (WRDW-TV, March 8, 2012)

Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt reacts to Abbeville train wreck, reflects on Graniteville (WRDW-TV, March 8, 2012)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, March 8, 2012

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. -- Thursday's Abbeville train wreck is a harsh reminder of that January morning in 2005 when two trains collided in Graniteville, releasing chlorine gas and killing nine people.

Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt played a huge role in the recovery efforts.

Ironically, Hunt woke up Thursday morning getting ready to speak to a group about the Graniteville train accident when he heard the news that another train accident had happened 70 miles away in Abbeville.

"It was kind of ironic to turn on the news and that's the first thing I see: 'breaking news.' That's a pretty mangled mess from what little I saw in the news," he said.

It was news that had Hunt thinking, "bad, it sounded bad."

Hunt knows all too well what happens when a bad accident hits a small town.

In an interview with News 12 in 2005, he said, "This is not your everyday wreck on Number 1 Highway in Aiken, this is a major incident and it's just not going to go quickly."

It hasn't gone away quickly, either. As sheriff, Hunt headed up recovery efforts and coordinated response during the Graniteville disaster seven years ago.

"We knew we had a bunch of folks sick and injured and we knew we had a big release of chlorine," he said.

That's where, he said, Abbeville's wreck gets messy.

"You are dealing with three different types of things. Then you have a problem with things mixing together if they are spilled and then you have a worst problem, at least in Graniteville, we knew what we were dealing with as far as one chemical."

He's here to remind us how they clean up that mess is just as crucial as how it got there.

"That's one of the things that concerned us during Graniteville, it really wasn't what had already leaked; it was what might happen when we start moving around those cars. They told us from the start that that was a process that could go bad," Hunt said.

A bad scenario that's turned into a lesson for unfortunate events like this one.

Of course, we know the severity of these accidents are very different, but Hunt says you can never been too prepared. He said good planning and people working together prevents an event bigger problem.


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