SEWICKLEY, Pa. - Crews are working nonstop to clean up a train derailment in Sewickley.
The accident happened Wednesday afternoon around 2 p.m. near Chadwick street, injuring a conductor and engineer.
Norfolk Southern officials told Channel 11 News the rail line is one of the busiest tracks in the country, connecting New York and Chicago.
The cleanup process is lengthy, officials said, because not only must crews replace 280 feet of rail, they must also remove soil contaminated with diesel fuel. What complicates the mission more, is that there are fiber optic cables in the ground.
“It’s going to have to be more surgical, so we’ll have to add more time to it,” said Norfolk Southern spokeswoman Rudy Husband.
A train going west rear ended another train that contained 6,000 gallons of diesel fuel. It caused a large explosion and prompted several nearby evacuations.
The crash also shut down a third of the tracks on one of Norfolk Southern’s busiest railways.
“It connects basically metropolitan New York and Chicago. We’re running 50, 60, and possibly 70 freight trains a day through this area,” Husband said.
An investigation into exactly what caused the crash is ongoing.
“If there are things that need to be done to change our operations, then we will certainly do that,” Husband said.
At least six fire companies rushed to the scene to battle the flames, and the blazing afternoon sun took its toll on some of the emergency responders.
“There are three engines off the tracks – one on its side. Two derailed. That was the difficult part about it because they were up against each other and on fire,” said Edgeworth Police Chief John English. “The heat, the smoke and just the exhaustion of trying to keep the fire down, got the best of some of them."
Chief of Emergency Services for Allegheny County Alvin Henderson said about 6,000 gallons of diesel fuel was on board one of the trains during the incident. Some of that fuel burned off during the fire.
At least 12 homes and several businesses, including Heritage Valley Medical Center, were evacuated as a precaution.
“Having that ball of fire in front our faces, you could feel the heat and big black smoke in the air, and you could smell it,” said Sherri Maher, of Sewickley.
The accident didn't pose any serious environmental dangers, said DEP spokesperson John Poister.
The injured conductor was treated and released from a local hospital. The engineer remains in the hospital, though his condition was not released.