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Published: Friday, 12/1/2006

Trains jump track, hurt 3; debris from derailments slams into autos <font face="verdana" size="1" color =#CC0000>NEW PHOTOS</font>


NORTH BALTIMORE, Ohio Three motorists were hurt yesterday when about 15 cars of a CSX Transportation Corp. freight train derailed while traveling through town, showering their vehicles with wreckage and striking a second train that also derailed.

North Baltimore police Chief Gerald E. Perry II said it was miraculous that Bob Loe, 48, the village s streets superintendent who was driving the car closest to the tracks, survived the derailment.

The roof of Mr. Loe s car was crushed down to the doors by a plate of steel thrown from a careening freight car, yet he remained conscious, calm, and talkative while rescuers extricated him.

Clean-up of the train wreck continued last night. Clean-up of the train wreck continued last night.

Mr. Loe had been reported in fair condition early yesterday evening at Wood County Hospital, Bowling Green, before he was transferred to University Medical Center, Toledo. No further information about his condition was available last night.

I m very surprised, but I m very grateful, too, that Mr. Loe was not more gravely injured, the police chief said.

Two drivers were hurt less seriously as they waited behind Mr. Loe s vehicle at the Tarr Street grade crossing when about 15 cars from a 35-car westbound freight train derailed about 12:18 p.m.

Matt Swartz, 37, a member of the village street department who was following Mr. Loe, was treated at Blanchard Valley Regional Health Center, Findlay.

Joseph Cook, 25, who was driving a vehicle that was behind Mr. Loe and Mr. Swartz, was treated at Wood County Hospital for minor injuries.

All three men live in North Baltimore.

Five rail cars near the rear of a 119-car eastbound coal train that was passing the westbound train on a parallel track also derailed, with two partially spilling their cargo along the tracks.

The accident blocked a major east-west rail line across western Ohio that is used by about 75 trains a day, all of them freight trains. Some trains were immediately diverted at either Fostoria or Deshler, Ohio, to run up other CSX tracks to the Toledo area and then back down to the main line.

Beverly Hartman of North Baltimore, who watched the crash from her car, said the eastbound train was going very slow, while the westbound was blowing its whistle for the Tarr Street crossing and was traveling at a normal speed.

The speed limit at that point in the rail line is 60 mph.

The first sign of trouble was just as the westbound engine got past Tarr Street, and I saw something white fly from the train, and then debris was going all over the place, Mrs. Hartman said.

The top of one auto was crushed, injuring Bob Loe, the village s streets superintendent, who was the closest to the crossing.
The top of one auto was crushed, injuring Bob Loe, the village s streets superintendent, who was the closest to the crossing.

The wheels off one freight car sailed into the air, she said, and then other cars started buckling together.

People in nearby buildings said they heard a loud bang as the derailment started.

We looked out the window, and saw one [rail] car go sideways, then the others piled onto it, said Jan Rush, a clerk at the Mid-Wood grain elevator office.

Joe Smith, the elevator s manager, said he was eating lunch at a restaurant a block away when he heard the noise and saw the westbound train s four locomotives and first five cars go across Main Street. The fifth car, which had partially derailed, was dragging along the track and lost one of its wheel assemblies just after it crossed the street.

The locomotives finally stopped about three-quarters of a mile west of the derailment.

Chief Perry said the derailment appeared to have begun at a track switch where a siding to the Mid-Wood Inc. grain elevator connects to the main line.

A bulldozer pushes coal around during the clean-up last night. A bulldozer pushes coal around during the clean-up last night.

Why cars in the middle of the westbound train started entering the siding instead of staying on the main track remained to be determined.

We need to look at the track conditions, the [train] equipment, and how the train was being operated, said Gary Sease, a CSX spokesman.

Abbi Spangenburg, who lives across the tracks from the elevator, said the accident increased her anxiety about living next to the tracks, and Cheryl Spangenburg, her mother, said she had just been talking to a neighbor about what could happen if a train derailed in their neighborhood.

The house started shaking, and I looked out the window and saw sparks flying and the [coal] train tipping over, Abbi Spangenburg said.

Freight cars immediately behind the locomotives included five flatcars carrying large steel plates. Three of those cars were involved in the wreck, scattering the plates around the area. Boxcars and one tank car loaded with latex also derailed, and a small amount of latex leaked, Mr. Sease said.

Two cars farther back in the train that contained residual amounts of hazardous material were not involved in the accident.

Within two hours of the accident, contractors specializing in derailment cleanups arrived at the scene with heavy equipment to clear the wreckage.

Less-damaged railcars were re-railed, while others were to be pushed out of the way for later removal or scrapping at the scene.

While not blocked by the derailment, Main Street was kept closed while the derailment cranes moved back and forth.

Chief Perry said representatives of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and the Federal Railroad Administration were at the scene to participate in the derailment investigation.

The accident was the third major derailment on CSX tracks in northern Ohio in nine days.

On Wednesday, a CSX train derailed in Ashtabula, four miles from the location of a Nov. 22 derailment on the same line.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.

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