Graniteville, one year later
January 6 marked the first year since the tragic rail crash in Graniteville, S.C., that claimed nine lives. Despite this horrific rail accident, in which deadly chlorine gas was emitted into the community, rail corporations have done little to address the numerous security and safety gaps along our nation's railways.
"On this one year anniversary, our thoughts are with the families whose loved ones perished as a result of this horrific accident," said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. "The best way to honor those who died is to do everything possible to prevent another tragedy."
The January 6, 2005 crash was the result of a misaligned, un-signaled switch. Norfolk Southern, the owner of the rail line, had declined to invest in an electronic signal system that could have alerted the engineer of the oncoming train, thus avoiding the deadly accident.
Rail corporations have failed to respond to the tragedy by improving safety and security, even after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended numerous changes, including urging rail corporations to install electronic signal systems.
"The rail corporations' failure to act is inexcusable," said Steve Seeling, the father of Chris Seeling, the locomotive engineer of the train that crashed into the parked train in Graniteville. Seeling, 28, died after inhaling toxic chlorine gas fumes from the crash. He was member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, part of the Teamsters Rail Conference. "The lack of follow-through shows the lack of respect they have for their employees and the public they serve."
The toxic chlorine gas emitted from the tank car in the crash is commonly carried on rails running through numerous communities in the United States. Teamster members, who work as locomotive engineers, trainmen and track building and maintenance workers, have identified numerous security and safety breaches on the nation's railways. Their alarming findings are documented in a recent Teamsters report, "High Alert." It shows that locomotive engines and rail yards remain accessible to trespassers, and workers still lack training on emergency plans and the use of emergency equipment such as special breathing apparatus.
"If the Graniteville tragedy wasn't a wakeup call to rail corporations, then I don't know what it will take for them to take safety and security seriously," said John Murphy, Director of the Teamsters Rail Conference. "Passengers, workers and communities remain vulnerable. The time to act is now"
To view a copy of the "High Alert" report, go to:
© 2006 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen