Pennsylvania man in good condition after collision with “empty” oil train

Repost from Lancaster Online
[Editor:  I have been asking various oil train experts about the volatility of “empty” crude oil tank cars.  These cars are not truly empty: returning trains of nearly-empty cars are referred to as “residue trains,” and carry the same identifying hazmat placard as when they are full.  Of course, these cars have been known to derail or crash as happened in this report.  I have not been able to find much documentation, but several reports claim that these cars can explode, sending shrapnel and causing major (and presumably relatively short-lived) fires.  Rail and oil insurers are certain to have calculated risk assessments on these cars.  But I have no record of this risk being addressed in permitting reviews.  What additional safety risk is added to a crude-by-rail project being considered for permitting in a city like Benicia?  Please contact me if you have further information, send to rogrmail at gmail dot com.  – RS]

Marietta man, 85, in good condition after collision with oil train

By Tom Knapp, Apr 7, 2015
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The wreckage of a pickup truck is shown after a collision March 27 with a northbound oil train. BRIAN LEID

An 85-year-old man is recovering after his pickup truck was struck by an empty oil train March 27 in Bainbridge.

Clark “Red” Arnold, of Marietta, was in critical condition as recently as Friday, but was listed in good condition Tuesday, a spokeswoman at Penn State Hershey Medical Center said.

Arnold was trapped in the truck after he apparently stopped his vehicle in the train’s path.

“He just didn’t hear the train,” Conoy Township supervisor Stephen Mohr said Friday afternoon.

“He and the train got to the intersection at about the same time. When he did see the train, he panicked and stopped on the tracks.”

Mohr, who witnessed the crash, said he had been speaking to Arnold just moments before the accident at the nearby Koser Park Boat launch area.

“You’re helpless,” he said. “I knew it was going to happen before it happened, but there’s nothing you can do.”

The crash occurred at the Race Street crossing at North Front Street.

Emergency crews were called to the scene at 1:29 p.m.

The Norfolk Southern oil train was heading north toward Harrisburg and was not carrying oil at the time of the crash, according to police.

Local, state and federal officials have expressed concerns about explosive Bakken crude oil being transported by train after several recent derailments.

Oil trains, often pulling more than 100 tanker cars, roll through about 35 miles of Lancaster County along the Susquehanna River up to 16 times a week.

Arnold was freed from his truck and taken to Hershey Medical Center for treatment, according to Lt. Stephen Englert of Susquehanna Regional Police.

“It was pretty serious,” Mohr said. “He took a beating. … They had to take the vehicle apart to free him.”

Mohr said Arnold was “conscious and talking to us” while rescue workers freed him from the truck.

There are no crossgates or warning lights at the intersection, Mohr noted.

Witnesses at the scene stated they heard the Norfolk Southern train horn well before the train collided with the vehicle, according to the Susquehanna Regional Police report.

Randy Gockley, director of the Lancaster County Emergency Management Agency, said the train did not derail, and responders on the scene reported no leakage from the train.

The Race Street intersection is the entrance to Bainbridge American Legion Park, which serves as the trailhead for the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail, as well as the location of the Bainbridge Inn.

Englert said the collision does not make him any more concerned about oil trains traveling through Conoy.

Capt. Leonard Crater of Bainbridge Fire Department said the the victim apparently “got a little too close to the tracks, and was unaware of the train coming.”

Onlookers “didn’t think he was trying to beat the train,” Crater said.

He was glad train cars were empty so “there was no kind of worry about any kind of leak or explosions or anything like that.”

The Bainbridge fire captain said nearly 20 firefighters from his department and nearby units responded, along with police.

Penny Rhan of 114 Race St., some 50 yards from the crash, heard a boom but didn’t initially realize it had been a train accident.

Another Race Street resident, Wayne Brooks, said “it’s been a long time since we’ve had an accident there.”

Staff writers David O’Connor and Ryan Robinson contributed to this report.