NTSB Launches Special Investigation Into Railroad Behind Fiery Ohio Disaster

The probe targets a series of accidents, including the derailment in East Palestine and a conductor's death on Tuesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday launched a special investigation into railroad giant Norfolk Southern after a series of recent accidents, including the fiery derailment in rural Ohio last month and a conductor’s death on Tuesday.

The probe will specifically look into the company’s “organization and safety culture,” the federal investigative agency said in a news release.

“Given the number and significance of recent Norfolk Southern accidents, the NTSB also urges the company to take immediate action today to review and assess its safety practices, with the input of employees and others, and implement necessary changes to improve safety,” the NTSB, which investigates transportation accidents, said in a statement.

Norfolk Southern did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. But CEO Alan Shaw told CNBC that the company will cooperate with the investigation.

“Moving forward, we are going to rebuild our safety culture from the ground up. We are going to invest more in safety,” he said in a statement. “This is not who we are, it is not acceptable, and it will not continue.”

The company has come under increasing scrutiny following the disastrous derailment of one of its trains last month. The nearly 2-mile train was passing through East Palestine, a town of about 5,000 people near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, when 38 cars careened off the tracks and caught fire. Of the 50 train cars that either derailed or were damaged in the resulting fire, 20 contained hazardous material. The incident has left residents terrified about short- and long-term health and environmental effects.

Norfolk Southern has continued to be the subject of negative headlines. On Saturday, another one of its freight trains derailed near Springfield, Ohio. It was not hauling toxic materials, and no injuries were reported.

Then on Tuesday morning, a Norfolk Southern conductor was killed in Cleveland, Ohio, when he was “struck by a dump truck as a Norfolk Southern train was moving through a crossing” at a steel facility, according to a company news release.

Along with those incidents, NTSB said it is investing three other Norfolk Southern accidents: two fatalities, one in 2021 and another in 2022, and a derailment in Sandusky, Ohio, last year.

Shaw is slated to testify Thursday at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The hearing will focus on the derailment in East Palestine and include testimony from officials at both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio EPA.

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