July 11 marks the one year anniversary of one of the largest train derailments Columbus has ever experienced.
It was a moment that put residents and emergency crews on high alert, following an explosion that could be seen and felt for miles.
Andrew Burgess was one of the witnesses. He saw fire and wreckage of derailed train cars near the Ohio State Fairgrounds.
Burgess was recording the scene on his cellphone at the time of the explosion. He was shocked that he was rolling during the huge blast.
Hundreds in the city were evacuated during the massive derailment.
The track has been repaired, but investigators are still trying to determine a cause.
They have ruled out sabotage.
The National Transportation Safety Board is still considering several factors.
Officials have concluded the train was travelling at 23 miles per hour, saying the train was “aggressive” when it hit the curve.
The section of the track had been inspected three months earlier, and investigators are still looking to see if the area had somehow been compromised.
The other factor that’s under consideration is the weight of the cargo which exceeded 12,000 tons.
It all leaves investigators challenged.
It was one of the biggest challenges Columbus firefighters have faced. Hearing the blast and seeing the sky light up means this was no ordinary emergency.
Captain Bill Brobst was on the scene shortly after the 16 train cars derailed. Three of them were carrying highly flammable ethanol. Another car was carrying a toxic material called Styrein.
“We had guys up close, and when the fireball happened, they suddenly got a new respect for rail cars,” said Brobst.
Even with all the damage, no one was seriously injured.
Brobst said the crews got lucky.
The accident happened at a “perfect” location. It was an area that was not heavily populated. Firefighters said information came in quickly to let them know what they were dealing with on the railcars.
But, there are some lessons that were learned.
“There was a lot of aggressive movements in the first 25 minutes of this incident that I think we’ve learned we would have been better off standing back. We had no life safety from the public, and we didn’t need to get firefighters too close,” said Brobst.
Witness Burgess learned his lesson as well. He said he won’t take a risk again to capture video.
Sources told 10TV that investigators are close to releasing the cause of the derailment.
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