WASHINGTON, D.C. (WKBN) – The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report Thursday into the Norfolk Southern East Palestine train derailment.

NTSB said that the train was traveling about 47 miles per hour at the time of the derailment. That is about 3 miles per hour below the authorized speed of 50 miles per hour.

A dynamic brake application was operating as the train passed a defect detector on the east side of East Palestine at milepost 49.81 that transmitted a critical audible alarm message instructing the crew to slow and stop the train to inspect a hot axle.

In addition, the train passed three system check systems that register temperature. An axle that is in question for overheating registered 38 degrees above ambient temperature at the 79.9 mile post. At the next one, it registered 103 degrees above ambient; and at the third, it registered 253 degrees above ambient.

Norfolk Southern established the following HBD alarm thresholds (above ambient temperature) and criteria for bearings:

  • ​Between 170°F and 200°F, warm bearing (non-critical); stop and inspect
  • A difference between bearings on the same axle greater than or equal to 115°F (non-critical); stop and inspect
  • Greater than 200°F (critical); set out railcar

NTSB said that after the train stopped, the crew observed fire and smoke and notified the Cleveland East dispatcher of a possible derailment. With dispatcher authorization, the crew applied handbrakes to the two railcars at the head of the train, uncoupled the head-end locomotives, and moved the locomotives about 1 mile from the uncoupled railcars. Responders arrived at the derailment site and began response efforts.​ 

Surveillance video from a local residence showed what appeared to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment. The wheel bearing and affected wheelset have been collected as evidence and will be examined by the NTSB. The vinyl chloride tank car top fittings, including the relief valves, were also removed and examined by the NTSB
on scene. The top fittings will be shipped to Texas for testing under the direction of
the NTSB.

A press conference is scheduled at 1 p.m. with NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy and Robert J. Hall, director of the NTSB’s Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials.

The event will be held at the NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Also on Thursday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will visit East Palestine. It is his first visit to the village since the derailment.

Here are the classification details of the derailment: (Source: NTSB)

  • Derailment happened Feb. 3, 2023, at 8:54 p.m.
  • It was a Norfolk Southern general merchandise freight train 32N.
  • The train derailed on track 1 in East Palestine.
  • Thirty-eight rail cars derailed and a fire ensued which damaged an additional 12 cars.
  • There were a total of 20 hazardous materials cars in the train consist – 11 of which derailed.
  • A complete list of what the cars were carrying is available online.
  • NTSB says video shows what appears to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment.

A controlled release of a car carrying vinyl chloride was conducted to prevent an explosion. This action is not part of the NTSB investigation. NTSB is conducting a safety investigation to determine the probable cause of the derailment and issue any safety recommendations, if necessary, to prevent future derailments.