National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) inspectors are investigating the Feb. 3 Ohio train derailment using video footage to gain insights into what caused the chemical disaster, in which 20 cars of hazardous materials went off the tracks.
The NTSB has identified the initial rail car to blame for the incident, and said in a statement on Tuesday that a video from a residence showed the car’s wheel bearing was “in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment.” Investigators said that they collected the wheel set from the railcar as well as the wheel bearing to be examined by engineers from NTSB Materials Laboratory in Washington, D.C.
The NTSB said that the tank cars were “currently” being decontaminated, and that inspectors will return once that process is complete to conduct a “thorough” investigation of the cars. They are still investigating the exact cause of the derailment using documentation, event recorder data and interviews, and they expect to publish a preliminary report in two weeks.
The Norfolk Southern train carrying multiple hazardous materials prompted evacuations from the town of East Palestine, Ohio, when it went off the tracks. NTSB officials said in their statement that the train was carrying 20 cars with hazardous materials, and 11 of those rail cars derailed.
Officials conducted a “controlled” release of the chemicals to prevent an explosion, but concerns remain about environmental threats related to water, wildlife and people’s health.
Mary Mertz, the director of Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources, said at a press conference Tuesday that an estimated 3,500 fish of 12 different species died in nearby waterways after the derailment, adding that none of the species were endangered.
Those nearby who have private water wells have been encouraged to use bottled water, which will be provided by Norfolk Southern, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said in a statement last week.
The company said in a statement Monday that it conducted water testing in municipal drinking water and public and private wells, and results will be available next week.