Press-Republican

Local News

May 27, 2007

Train derailment causes scare

ESSEX — A Canadian Pacific Railway freight train derailed about 8:45 a.m. Saturday near where the tracks cross Route 22 in Essex about three miles west of Lake Champlain.

Freighter number 251 was northbound from Saratoga to Montreal when 12 of 33 cars went off the tracks.

Two overturned tanker cars carried chemicals — methylene chloride, a paint remover, and methyl bromide, an insecticide — according to Essex County emergency services Deputy Director Don Jaquish.

The potential for chemical spill set county HazMat response teams in motion and two homes near the wreck were evacuated as standard operating procedure.

The HazMat equipment trailer and about 10 trained first responders reached the area shortly before 11 a.m.

A crew of eight from the county squad suited up and went to inspect the cars for leakage.

By 1 p.m., they determined the chemical tanks had not been ruptured in the incident.

But pressure valves on top of the methylene chloride tanker were buried when the car overturned, keeping HazMat crews there awaiting arrival of the railroad company’s wrecker.

“We’re concerned whether or not those valves were broken,” Jaquish said.

Special side-winder machines used to reset freight cars were en route from Pennsylvania by midday Saturday, officials said.

Nearby residents reported hearing the train squeal to a halt and saw the locomotive catch fire.

Lisa and Calvin Cumm live beside the tracks and were evacuated soon after the derailment.

“It was screeching really loud,” Lisa said. “I thought they were cleaning the tracks.”

Her son told her the train locomotive was on fire.

“He saw smoke and flames. The train guys came and borrowed rakes from us to put it out.”

Soon ambulance and fire trucks were pulling into the driveway, Lisa said.

“The whole train starts tipping behind our shop and every car forward. The firemen told us we had to get out. They didn’t know how dangerous it was.”

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