Train derailment in Virginia raises new fears locally

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WIVB) – More than a dozen CSX tanker cars filled with crude oil ended up in the James River in Lynchburg, Virginia Wednesday afternoon.

Amy Mapes grew up Newfane and still spends her summers in WNY, but right now lives right across the river from this derailment in Virginia.

PHOTOS | See more incredible images of the derailment taken by Mapes from across the river

“This was not going fast. The rails are just a twisted mess right now and they’re not sure what happened,” she says.

MORE PHOTOS | You can find even more photos of the derailment from the Associated Press here

Just three months ago, News 4’s Luke Moretti did a special report on the potential danger of trains like these going through neighborhoods of Western New York. They’re classified as DOT-111 tanker cars and hundreds of them roll through Western New York. every day.

Last December, some of them derailed in Cheektowaga but didn’t catch fire. Last July, nearly 50 people died in Quebec when a train like this derailed.

Governor Andrew Cuomo wasted no time putting out a statement Wednesday saying, “In addition to steps that states like New York are taking, the federal government must overhaul the safety regulations starting with taking DOT 111s of the rails now. They travel through neighborhoods and we cannot wait for a tragic disaster in our state to act.”

Back in February, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer expressed frustration at the delays in getting new federal rules for tanker trains.

“It’s a little bit of the old Abbott & Costello, the oil companies say ‘Let the railroads make it safer’ and the railroads say ‘Let the oil companies make it safer.’ And often times safety falls in the middle,” Schumer says.

Since then, the U.S. Transportation Department and the Association of American Railroads reached an agreement for new safety measures, but it failed to address DOT-111 tank cars, which have a history of failures.

Wednesday’s derailment came on the same day Global Partners announced it will require tanker cars to meet with updated standards for all crude oil trains arriving at its East and West Coast terminals, starting in upstate New York and Oregon.

The accident in Virginia also, coincidentally, came the same day state leaders in New York began to push harder for the federal government to force railroad companies to change their safety practices.

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