UPDATE: Cleanup efforts at derailment site nearing conclusion

Published: Feb. 14, 2020 at 6:17 PM EST
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Updated 02/16

Crews worked all through the day on Saturday to secure the remaining rail cars and remove the ethanol still left in the tanker cars.

According to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet the ethanol removal should be complete by some time Sunday afternoon. Once it is all extracted the rail cars and trains will be removed.

They also say that surface water sampling and intake sampling at treatment plants are happening every four hours to monitor potential impacts caused by cleanup work at the site with ''good'' results.

Original story 2/14

The Draffin community of Pike County experienced a whirlwind of emotion Thursday when an

“A burning train? That’s not a normal, routine call," said Millard Fire and Rescue Captain Chris Castle.

Castle's crew responded after hearing that a train had hit a mudslide, was knocked off the tracks and into the Russell Fork River, and then caught fire.

“They faced just about as much as you can face in one day," Castle said about the two operators of the train engine.

He said the department was delighted to find that the men had survived the crash and were trying to escape the train on their own upon the crew's arrival, but he said the water in the river is never a welcoming temperature.

“One of the gentlemen was actually in the river when we got the boat to him. So, on top of everything else, they faced water that was probably 38-40 degrees," Castle said.

He said the situation turned out to be the best possible scenario as Millard Fire and Rescue loaded the two men onto their boat and got them to safety.

“It was a memorable call for everybody involved. For all of the departments involved," he said. "But it’s something that’s going to stick with those gentlemen, certainly, for a long time in a totally different way. And I’m just glad they were able to come out of it okay.”

The men were taken to the hospital, but officials say their injuries were not serious.

"A mess can be cleaned up. Equipment can be replaced," Castle said. "Now, if they hadn't made it out of there, they couldn't be replaced. So, as long as the rescue is successful, it was a good day."

And while the rescue squads are relishing in the successful day, efforts to clean up the mess are underway.

Officials with the National Transportation Safety Administration say they are working with CSX and the Federal Railroad Administration to investigate the crash.

However, the same slide that officials say is the cause of the derailment is also holding off the investigation.

"Right now we're in a little bit of a holding pattern to make sure that the site that we're going to go investigate is secure and safe," said NTSA Investigator James Southworth. "Parts of the slide, from what I've been told, are still sliding, so that makes it inherently dangerous. So there's a lot of thought and engineering that goes into how they'll stabilize that so we can go in there and also remove the equipment."

According to a statement from CSX, five cars derailed with the engines. Four of those cars were loaded with ethanol and one contained sand.

The process of removing the cars will not begin until the slide is stabilized, so officials say it could take weeks before any major improvements are seen. However, work is underway as crews attempt to lay rock and gravel in the area. The investigation into the derailment could take months.

Officials suggest exercising caution when traveling through that section of U.S. 460 since the roadways are lined with construction equipment.

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