Transportation Secretary and NTSB Discuss Preliminary Report on Train Derailment in East Palestine, Ohio

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairperson Robert L. Sumwalt III visited East Palestine, Ohio on February 23, 2023, to discuss the NTSB’s preliminary report on the Norfolk Southern train derailment that occurred on February 3, 2023.

The train derailment caused extensive damage to the surrounding area and killed an estimated 43,700 aquatic animals in nearby streams, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.[0] The derailment also spurred safety concerns among Ohio residents, some of whom attended a CNN town hall to confront Norfolk Southern CEO Jim Shaw.[1]

The NTSB report noted that the train’s crew became aware of an overheated wheel bearing just moments before the wreck, and attempted to stop the train.[2] Data from the wayside defect detectors and the lead locomotive’s event recorder were also examined.[3]

The report highlighted the need for stronger railroad safety rules, as well as the importance of responding to audible alarms. EPA Administrator Michael Regan also emphasized that Norfolk Southern will be responsible for cleaning up the area, as well as for any potential health consequences from the controlled burn of vinyl chloride.

The NTSB has stated that its future investigative activity will focus on the wheelset and bearing; tank car design and derailment damage; a review of the accident response, including the venting and burning of the vinyl chloride; railcar design and maintenance procedures and practices; NS use of wayside defect detectors; and NS railcar inspection practices.[4]

The Virginia-based company has agreed to pay for the cleanup and any potential health risks associated with the incident. Moving forward, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the NTSB are calling for stronger railroad safety rules to prevent future tragedies.

0. “Estimated animal death toll from Ohio train derailment tops 43,700 as time frame for environmental recovery remains uncertain, officials say” CBS News, 24 Feb. 2023,

1. “NTSB chair says NS train derailment was ‘100% preventable’” FreightWaves, 23 Feb. 2023,

2. “Norfolk Southern CEO fields questions from East Palestine residents” The Columbus Dispatch, 23 Feb. 2023,

3. “NTSB Issues Preliminary Report on NS Ohio Derailment” RailwayAge Magazine, 23 Feb. 2023,

4. “A first report on the Ohio toxic train wreck was released. Here's what it found — and what investigators are still looking into” CNN, 25 Feb. 2023,

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