NTSB investigating train collision in Union County

Published: May 24th
by TONY BURBECK / NewsChannel 36
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MINERAL SPRINGS, N.C. -- Two Federal investigations are now underway into why two CSX trains collided Tuesday morning in Mineral Springs, killing two CSX employees.

The NTSB and Federal Railroad Administration have both sent crews to the scene. They will determine if human error or mechanical problems caused the collision.

The accident created a mangled mess on the railroad tracks. Two CSX employees - an engineer and conductor - died from the force of the collision, and nine freight cars derailed. Some ended up stacked on top of each other.

4,500 gallons of diesel fuel from a locomotive, and railroad cars carrying clothes fueled the fire.

The first CSX train, heading from New Orleans to Hamlet, North Carolina, was either stopped or moving slowly when a second CSX train on the same track smashed into from behind at 3:38 Tuesday morning.

"Just a rumble, boom,” said witness James Bailey, describing what he heard. The railroad tracks are out his back door. "It had to be going pretty fast because they're stacked on top of each other,” Bailey said.

Why two CSX trains were on the same track, one apparently stopped and the other coming right at it, is something CSX says they don't know yet.

"There are signals alongside the track that have color aspects, green, red and yellow, that are very much like a traffic light. They give instructions to the train crews on the proper movements. Certainly the investigation will be focused on what happened,” said Gary Sease with CSX.

Bailey and a relative talked to one of the wounded employees in the second train. They could hear him, but couldn't see him in the dark.

"He was in and out of consciousness. He said something. He was just talking about his family,” Bailey said.

"It's sad, you know, to know that he didn't make it and I was standing there talking to him, it was troubling,” another witness said.

CSX has not released the names of the employees killed. Officials say it could be a day or two before the trains are removed. About 15 to 20 CSX trains use those tracks per day.

CSX is re-routing the trains until the railroad tracks are clear and have been replaced.