HomeNewsNebraska Coal Train Derailment Requires Emergency Hazmat Response

Nebraska Coal Train Derailment Requires Emergency Hazmat Response

by TK Sanders
(Photo by Wang Zheng/VCG via Getty Images)

A train ran off the tracks overnight in Nebraska, adding another strange and coincidental transportation disaster to the rash of recent incidents in the US heartland.

The train crash prompted an emergency hazmat response just outside of Gothenburg, a town just off of I-80 in the middle of the state. More than a dozen trains have wrecked since the beginning of the year, the most notable being the East Palestine chemical disaster in Ohio.

The overnight accident is the 4th derailment in Gothenburg, alone, in a calendar year (and the third in this exact spot, according to reports).

Spectators report around a dozen train cars came off the tracks in the wreck. Crews with the Union Pacific Railroad also arrived on the scene Monday morning to help with the cleanup. 

Union Railroad issued a statement after the incident: “At about 1:45 a.m. CST today (Monday), approximately 31 Union Pacific train cars carrying coal derailed near Gothenburg, Nebraska. No one was injured. The incident occurred about three miles southeast of Gothenburg. Cleanup has begun, with heavy equipment on site. One of the three mainline tracks near the derailment site reopened to train traffic at about 8 a.m. CST. The cause of the incident is under investigation.”

The train wreck in Nebraska required emergency response, but it pales in comparison to East Palestine’s chemical spill

The derailment occurred just days after Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced his upcoming visit to East Palestine to assess the damage in Ohio.

The derailment and subsequent chemical spill in East Palestine led to mass evacuations due to the release of toxic vinyl chloride into the air and water. Authorities decided to ignite the gases for a “controlled release” of the hazardous chemicals in a controlled environment. The fireball created a dark plume of smoke that hung heavy over the community for days.

In the weeks since, constant uncertainty and whiffs of scandal have plagued the cleanup efforts. The EPA assured residents that they could return home, but many residents still report severe side effects like coughing, burning eyes, and wheezing. Locals also report that animals, especially fish, are slowly dying each day as a result.

Norfolk Southern, the private equity-backed rail company responsible for the Ohio wreck, also suffered another derailment in Detroit last week. What’s worse, the company cited “safety concerns” for skipping the East Palestine townhall meeting, where local residents demanded answers for this crisis.

The recent spate of crises have sparked national discussions about the safety of the U.S. railway network and the transportation of hazardous materials on those rails.