Bartow train derailment happens exactly 14 years after deadly Graniteville derailment

Published: Jan. 7, 2019 at 10:32 AM EST
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Monday, January 7, 2019

News 12 @ 6 O’clock / NBC 26 at 7

GRANITEVILLE, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Two cities over an hour and a half apart share an odd similarity. Something Graniteville resident Josephine Hall admits is a bit weird.

"Just thinking about that train wreck over in Georgia. I mean, that is... on the same day? That is weird," she says.

On January 6th, 2005 a train derailed in Graniteville, releasing 160-thousand pounds of chlorine into the air.

"It was green, sparkly. Like a haze," Josephine recalls.

Josie says she nearly suffocated.

"You couldn't breathe, your eyes were burning, your nose, everything. It was a painful, painful day."

Nine people died, 550 were hospitalized and 5,400 were evacuated. The chlorine lingered burning her esophagus, so she moved to Hawaii for 8 years returning recently to the news of her worst nightmare just 70 miles away.

"Back then, I don't know. I don't think we really were prepared for all of this mess because it just happened."

Chief Kneece says they did the best they could at the time.

"We've learned over the years that we do need to make sure everyone is trained in hazardous materials response, emergency management," says Chief Charles Kneece, GVW Volunteer Fire Department.

Because of the crash, things have changed.

The NTSB requires hazardous materials to be located in the rear of the train and operators must reduce speeds for hazardous materials

Josie says through tragedies, we learn.

"If that didn't happen that day would your life be different? It would be different. Completely different."

Norfolk Southern determined the accident in Graniteville was due to an improperly switched line. A disaster that could've been avoided with an electronic signal alert. A DOT report says Norfolk Southern now has those alerts in two-thirds of their main lines which is above average.

12:59 p.m.

BARTOW, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – A train derailment in Bartow, Georgia, caused people in the small town to panic as they evacuated late Sunday night into Monday morning.

39 train cars derailed, spilling hydrogen peroxide. For people who have lived in the area for a long time, this scene looks all too familiar.

It was exactly 14 years before Sunday night’s crash when a similar accident happened. On January 6, 2005, a derailment and chemical spill turned deadly in Graniteville, South Carolina.

When news of the chemical leak first spread in Bartow, officials believed it might have been chlorine. The evacuation was prompt after that, because they knew how dangerous the chemical could be after that Graniteville accident 14 years ago.

In 2005, a chlorine cloud that took over Graniteville was responsible for the deaths of nine people and injuries to hundreds more. That train, also owned and operated by Virginia-based Norfolk Southern, came across an open switch before slamming into a parked train.

16 train cars were affected in that first accident, compared to the 39 in Bartow.

While the health effects from the chemical leak in Bartow, which has been confirmed as hydrogen peroxide, are uncertain, people are still suffering from health issues today from that chlorine spill over a decade ago.

The derailment and crash in Graniteville cost Norfolk Southern at least $58 million. The company was also expected to pay legal fees for the insurer.

No one has died from this latest crash, but four first responders were sent to the hospital for respiratory issues while working near the spill.

The cleanup efforts in Bartow are expected to last days.