Graniteville, SC Train Wreck, Chemical Spill, Jan 2005




Graniteville (AP) - Eight people died and more than 260 were treated for respiratory and other ailments after two trains crashed here Thursday morning, derailing 16 cars and spilling a hazardous chemical gas, according to state and Aiken County officials.
State Sen. Tommy Moore, D-Clearwater, said Thursday night that officials at Avondale Mill, where the derailment happened, had informed him that eight people were found dead following the accident, including five inside the textile mill. Sheriff's Lt. Michael Frank, confirmed that one person was found dead at home and another body was found in a vehicle near the textile mill. Norfolk Southern spokesman Robin Chapman said a train engineer also was among the dead.
Moore said he was told all of the dead, except the train engineer, were killed by inhaling chlorine fumes.
Gov. Mark Sanford said after touring the area from the air that he saw a human body near the site, but it was unclear whether that was one of those reported dead or an additional fatality.
The injured were taken to area hospitals and most were treated then released, hospital spokeswomen said. At least 45 people were admitted; eight of those were in critical condition Thursday night.
The accident happened about 2:30 a.m. in this textile town near the Georgia state line. A Norfolk Southern freight train with three locomotives and 42 rail cars struck a locomotive with two parked rail cars, Chapman said.
He said three cars on the moving train were carrying chlorine and a gas cloud was released. He did not know where the train was going.
In addition to the engineer who was killed, Chapman said the other crew member on the moving train was taken to a hospital after inhaling toxic fumes. The condition of the crew member was unavailable Thursday afternoon.
No one was aboard the parked train.
One of the loose cars struck a tree, knocked it onto a car and trapped a woman inside for about two hours, Frank said. The woman was removed and taken to a hospital for treatment. Her condition also was unknown.
Sanford declared a state of emergency for the county, activating the State Emergency Operations Center and making state resources available.
As the sun began to set, authorities ordered all residents within one mile of the crash site - about 5,400 - to evacuate. Frank said about a dozen refused to leave.
State Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman Thom Berry said chlorine was still leaking out and would be settling near the ground as temperatures dropped Thursday night.
He was unsure when the leak might be sealed.
Evacuees who did not have a friend or relative to stay with were being gathered at shelters in the area, including one at the University of South Carolina-Aiken where officials had set up a decontamination station earlier in the day.
The Federal Aviation Administration imposed temporary flight restrictions in the area. The no-fly zone covered a five-mile radius around the site up to 3,000 feet, FAA spokesman Christopher White said. The area was not large enough to affect commercial traffic.
Berry said DHEC was conducting air tests and teams were dispatched into Graniteville to conduct door-to-door well-being checks and alert residents about the evacuation.

The Index-Journal Greenwood South Carolina 2005-01-07

Listing of the Casualties.
CHRISTOPHER SEELING, 28, engineer, West Columbia, S.C.
WILLIE C. SHEALEY, 43, Graniteville, S.C.
WILLIE L. TYLER, 57, Graniteville, S.C.
JOHN LAIRD, 24, North Augusta, S.C.
FRED RUSHTON, III, 41, Warrenville, S.C.
STEVEN BAGBY, 38, Augusta, Ga.
ALLEN FRAZIER, 58, Ridge Spring, S.C.
JOSEPH L. STONE, 21, Quebec, Canada.
TONY DELOACH, 56, Graniteville, S.C.
LEONARD MATHIS, Graniteville, S.C. (Died on April 21, 2005 after having been ill from driving through the chlorine cloud).