Fifteen years after the Graniteville train crash, the sounds of train whistles still haunt residents

Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

A sign now honors those who died in the Graniteville train collision that killed nine back in January 2005. (Source: WRDW)

GRANITEVILLE, SC (WRDW/WAGT) -- Heart and breathing problems, body pain, and emotional trauma -- that's what people in Graniteville still feel today 15 years after a massive, deadly chlorine release that left nine people dead and hundreds injured.

A sign, honoring those that died in the collision, now marks the spot where two Norfolk Southern trains collided. Their lives may be gone forever, but many still in the community know their lives will never be the same.

"You didn’t hear any birds singing,” Graniteville resident Kathy Harvey said. “There was a dead bird back in our yard, and there was like a death still over the whole town.”

Fifteen years have come, but the pain has still yet to leave.

“The fumes were coming in too harsh,” Harvey recalled. “It was closing my sinuses up and my lungs. Everybody had tight chests.”

Reports show railroad officials, first responders, and government leaders all identified lessons to be learned from the nation's deadliest chlorine release.

Harvey lived right near where the train derailed. Clouds of chemicals swallowed her neighborhood. Courts determined the health and environmental damage was worth millions of dollars with neighbors and the local plant settling lawsuits with Norfolk.

The effects on Harvey were just beginning to reveal themselves. Hundreds are just like her. She’s had severe respiratory problem ever since.

“You could literally smell the chlorine being pulled out of my body through that,” Harvey said.

Meanwhile, some groups are still monitoring the long-term health effects of those sick to keep getting them resources.
Fifteen years removed from the crash, but its wreckage is still left behind and spanning far beyond.

“The thought goes through your mind every time you hear a train whistle,” Harvey said.

The last Graniteville lawsuit was settled back in 2011, and the largest settlement was granted a few years after the crash.

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