The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday it will launch an investigation into Norfolk Southern after the derailment last month of a train transporting dangerous chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio, and a series of other “significant accidents.”
The agency said it would be looking into the railroad’s safety practices and culture.
The announcement came just hours after the railroad said a conductor had been fatally struck at an Ohio steel facility.
“Given the number and significance of recent Norfolk Southern accidents, the NTSB also urges the company to take immediate action today to review and assess its safety practices, with the input of employees and others, and implement necessary changes to improve safety,” the agency said in a statement.
The railroad announced plans Monday to improve the use of detectors along railroad tracks to spot overheating bearings and other problems in response to the derailment in Ohio last month.
On Feb. 3, a 150-car train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in East Palestine, spurring thousands of residents to evacuate while the toxic chemicals were intentionally burned to prevent an uncontrolled explosion.
The NTSB has said the crew got a warning from a detector but couldn’t stop the train before more than three dozen cars went off the tracks.
Many in the community are afraid and anxious about their exposure to the chemicals, and they are worried about the quality of air and drinking water, despite reassurances by government officials that they are safe. Some have reported lingering coughs or chest pain.
The railroad has launched a website, NSMakingItRight.com, to provide regular updates to the community.
The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Norfolk Southern to clean up any contaminated soil and water and pay all the costs. It must also reimburse the EPA for the costs of cleaning homes and testing municipal water every week.
Another train derailed this month in Springfield, Ohio. No hazardous material was on board.
The NTSB said it is also looking into a derailment last year in Sandusky, as well as an incident last year in which a trainee conductor was killed and another conductor was injured when a freight train hit a steel angle iron protruding from another train.
Early Tuesday, a Norfolk Southern train conductor was killed after he was struck by a dump truck at an Ohio steel facility, the company said.
Louis Shuster, 46, was at the Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. steel facility around 1:30 a.m. when a truck with a load of limestone “collided with the front left side of the first train car,” a Cleveland police spokesperson said. Shuster, who was outside the train when he was struck, was later pronounced dead at the scene.
“We are grieving the loss of a colleague today,” the railroad said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to his loved ones during this extremely difficult time.”
The company said that it is investigating with Cleveland police, as well as the facility, and that it has been in touch with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.
Lindsey Pipia and The Associated Press contributed.