Company At Center Of Ohio Train Derailment Pulls Out Of Town Hall With Residents
Rebecca Kiger/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Norfolk Southern, the company at the center of the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, announced hours before a Wednesday town hall with residents that officials representing the firm would not attend.

Local officials had scheduled the public meeting as citizens continue to raise concerns over the February 3 accident. Authorities had evacuated all residents within one mile of the crash and started a controlled burn of the volatile chemicals to decrease the risk of an explosion; vinyl chloride, a carcinogenic substance, was released from five train cars in the form of massive plumes of dark smoke visible throughout eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

Though residents were promised a town hall meeting, officials changed the event to an informational session with local and state representatives, according to a report from The New York Times. Officials managing the event, hosted at the East Palestine High School gymnasium, reportedly urged frustrated residents to remain civil as they called out questions and sometimes booed after hearing what they deemed unsatisfactory responses.

Representatives from Norfolk Southern pulled out of the event hours before its start time, citing safety concerns. “Unfortunately, after consulting with community leaders, we have become increasingly concerned about the growing physical threat to our employees and members of the community around this event stemming from the increasing likelihood of the participation of outside parties,” the company said in a statement provided to multiple media outlets.

Residents have mentioned a lingering smell in the air, deceased wildlife and farm animals, and various worrisome health issues. One first responder said in an interview with The Daily Wire that he and his colleagues experienced “bad cough, headaches, sore throat, and diarrhea” after assisting community members impacted by the derailment.

Norfolk Southern has offered financial assistance to some 1,000 households inside the evacuation zone totaling more than $1.5 million, according to a press release from the company on Wednesday. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), whose district includes East Palestine, noted in a letter to Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw that families who evacuated from outside of the one-mile radius did not receive compensation.

“These concerned citizens are upset that they are not able to be reimbursed because they live just outside of the evacuation zone,” the lawmaker wrote. “The men and women I represent are rightfully concerned about their air, soil, and water being contaminated by harmful toxins.”

Beyond the release of vinyl chloride, Norfolk Southern warned the EPA that a number of other volatile chemicals were present at the derailment site. One train car containing ethylene glycol monobutyl ether currently has an “unknown status,” according to Norfolk Southern, while the amount of ethylhexyl acrylate in another car is still “pending.” The EPA issued the full list of substances present at the site after residents were told they could safely return to their homes.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are meanwhile collecting and examining pieces of the train that appear to have induced the crash.

“Surveillance video from a residence showed what appears to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment,” the agency said in a press release. “The wheelset from the suspected railcar has been collected as evidence for metallurgical examination.”

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Company At Center Of Ohio Train Derailment Pulls Out Of Town Hall With Residents