Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Derailment Misses Homes Green Cove Area Evacuated Briefly

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Derailment Misses Homes Green Cove Area Evacuated Briefly

Article excerpt

GREEN COVE SPRINGS -- A train hauling potentially hazardous fertilizer narrowly missed smashing into Clay County homes early yesterday, instead derailing off the track into a deserted yard.

The CSX Transportation train, heading south from Jacksonville to Taft, derailed around 6:30 a.m., police said. Nine of the 77 cars were thrown off, and a pair of those were carrying the fertilizer.

Green Cove Springs police temporarily evacuated about 30 people from nearby homes, until officials said the area was safe. The two-member crew driving the train was uninjured, and police said no residents were hurt.

Police said the wreck could have been worse; homes line one side of the track, a railroad museum and a nursing home are on the other side, and the train came apart just 10 feet after what is traditionally a busy intersection.

"There were many, many things that could have gone wrong, but didn't," Clay County Fire and Rescue Chief Dave Casey said. "Instead of a Christmas tree, you could have had a 40-foot box car in your home."

CSX officials and police are investigating what caused the crash. The maximum speed allowed on the track is 60 mph, CSX spokeswoman Kathy Burns said. It was unclear how fast the train was going when it derailed.

Burns said there is a tape-recording device inside the train engine room, and that could help investigators find out what happened. Similar to a black box found in airplanes after crashes, the recorder could show how fast the train was going and other information.

The train automatically stopped after derailing. All 77 cars on the train are connected by hoses, Burns said, and if the line is cut, an emergency break is triggered. The train operators immediately got out, called police and checked the damage.

And about five hours after the wreck, Elise Priest stood outside her Melrose Avenue home -- a few feet behind the wreck -- and thought about what could have been damaged.

Having lived in the white shingle, two-story home for 37 years, Priest said she always wondered when a train would crash. …

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