Split-Second Decision May Have Saved Lives In CSX Cargo Train Crash
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ROSEDALE, Md. (WJZ) — Federal investigators are still looking for answers in the crash that caused a train to derail and explode. A split-second decision may have saved lives.
Meghan McCorkell was at the crash scene, where crews are still working around the clock.
Investigators still have not officially determined who was at fault in the crash. Many nearby are amazed only one person was injured.
The massive cleanup continues around the clock, as stories of survival from Tuesday’s train derailment emerge.
“This whole train just derailed. Oh my God, the smoke plumes are huge!” a man at the scene said.
This video was taken inside Baltimore Windustrial Company, which sits right next to the train tracks.
“The flames went from 15 feet to 200-to-300 feet within 10 or 15 seconds,” said John Dauses, Baltimore Windustrial.
Looking at the wreckage right next to the building, manager Michael Brown had a bad feeling.
“I just thought, ‘If that thing blows up, that’s going to be… that’s going to be a problem,’” Brown said.
So he made a split second decision.
“Get this car and get out, man!” said Brown.
From surveillance video you can see his workers’ cars, all evacuating. Twenty seconds after they pass came a terrifying explosion.
This is what’s left of the building they’d just been in: the entire front wall is blown off. Furniture is thrown all over.
“Some people definitely would have been seriously injured. I mean, there’s no doubt about it,” said Kevin Lindemann, Baltimore Windustrial.
Web Extra: Baltimore Windustrial Employees Recount Derailment
Now federal investigators are trying to determine how it all happened, using two locomotives and a similar truck to recreate the crash.
“The purpose of the recreation is to find out at what point the train may have been visible from the truck,” said Robert Sumwalt, NTSB.
The train operator sounded his horn three times. Federal investigators recovered the train’s black box and interviewed members of the crew.
Residents who sustained damage to their homes in the explosion held a closed door meeting with CSX officials at a local restaurant.
The NTSB is also looking into the safety records of the trucking company. State police tell WJZ Alban Waste failed an audit back in 2011 because of problems keeping driver records.
And according to our media partner, The Baltimore Sun, Alban Waste is in the bottom 10 percent of companies nationwide in safety compliance.
The NTSB plans to interview the driver of the truck, John Alban Jr., who remains in the hospital.
The crash happened at a railroad crossing that has no gates or lights, just a stop sign. Those are common in industrial areas.
The cause of the collision has not yet been determined.
The incident caused about half a million dollars in equipment damage and $120,000 in damage to the tracks alone. That’s according to the NTSB. They have not been able to come up with a dollar figure yet for the environmental impact.
And Rochelle Ritchie has more on the impact the explosion is still having on the community.
Several businesses near ground zero were damaged. And we continue to hear miraculous stories of how some people consider time being on their side.
It’s been 48 hours since the horn of a train could be heard in the Rosedale neighborhood. And for those returning to work, it’s a reminder of the day fate was on their side.
“I was out to lunch, I was actually supposed to be on vacation. Came in anyway. So, somebody’s looking out for everybody,” said Sandy Williar.
Sandy Williar’s office window faces the direction of the tracks where a train and garbage truck collided, followed by a massive explosion that knocked people to the ground.
“Luckily, I had seen seen your video so I kind of knew what I was coming into,” Williar said.
The force of the blast shattered windows into pieces of sharp knives, and Sandy says she knows what may have been if she were at her desk.
“It’s just devastating. So scary. I would not be here right now I don’t think. At best, it would have been serious injuries. So, it’s still shaky,” she said.
Nobody died, everyone calling it a miracle.
“You could feel the heat. It was like an oven right in your face,” said Eric Sipes.
Sipes works at Baltimore Windustrial. The building suffered the most damage. Sky Eye Chopper 13 showing blown out doors of one of their storage units.
Employees are crediting their boss with getting them out just in time.
“And then I felt hot ash falling on my arms, I guess from whatever was burning,” Sipes said.
Business owners are now checking the structures of the buildings, as employees come to grips with just how a split-second decision can be a matter of life or death.
Several buildings damaged in the blast are now boarded up. It could be weeks, if not months, before people are allowed back in.