Ohio Senator visits Clark County train derailment site, calls for passage of railway safety bill

SPRINGFIELD — Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown returned Friday to the site of Clark County’s train derailment from earlier this month to push his railway safety act and wanted to see the clean-up efforts.

>>PHOTOS: Senator Brown visits Clark County train derailment site

News Center 7′s Mike Campbell spoke with the senator about how he plans to force railroad companies to focus on safety.

It has been at nearly three weeks since a Norfolk Southern Train derailed in Clark County but there are still a half-dozen damaged cars laying on their side next to the tracks.

Senator Brown said when it comes to clean up and safety, he plans to hold Norfolk Southern’s feet to the fire.

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“How many cars derailed?” Brown asked on scene.

Senator Brown looked over the back fence of a Clark County business to see damaged rail cars still on their sides.

He stepped inside with Lane Martin, who runs an organization supporting developmentally disabled adults.

>>ORIGINAL COVERAGE: Norfolk Southern train derails in Springfield; No hazardous materials ‘involved’

The train derailed almost on top of Martin’s buildings on March 4 and he feared an environmental nightmare.

“Right here in my backyard,” he told Campbell. “It did not. I just think we got very, very lucky that it did not.”

Images from Sky 7 showed 28 out of 212 cars derailed but somehow, none of the 30 tankers that did have hazardous materials inside were part of the derailment.

>>PHOTOS: Drone footage shows train derailment near Clark County Fairgrounds

But the people in East Palestine were not so lucky when a Norfolk Southern train derailed in their community back in February.

Campbell says the months long clean-up still underway there, plus the Clark County incident, are all part of why Brown believes more regulation is needed.

“The people that work on the railroad don’t have the time they need to do safety inspections because they keep laying people off,” said Brown.

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Campbell reports highlights of Brown’s Railway Safety Act include:

  • Requiring trains carrying hazardous materials to report them to each state they travel through
  • Raises fines for safety violations from $10,000 to $25,000
  • It would force companies to keep at least two employees, a conductor and engineer on each train

“If there’s only one person on a train and they have a medical problem, what then,” said Brown.

>>PHOTOS: Ground images of Springfield train derailment

Campbell says the senator believes the proposals in this bill are really common sense ideas and he believes safety should be the top priority, not company profits. He also thinks the fines must increase for safety violations.

“The whole point of the fine is not to get revenue, the point is it hurts enough that they invest more in safety,” said Brown.

The tracks in Clark County have been back open since a few days following the derailment.

But one lane of traffic is always blocked because Norfolk Southern workers continue their efforts at remediation and clean-up at the site.