Major train wreck, but no major injuries

FONDA – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo late Thursday afternoon visited the scene of that morning’s trail derailment along Route 5, telling people he hopes the tracks are back in service by Saturday.

“The good news is, despite a tremendous amount of damage with 40 cars derailed, no one had any serious injuries,” Cuomo said. “The operators of the locomotive went to the hospital, they were checked out and there were only minor injuries to the operators.”

Meanwhile, emergency crews were cleaning up the wreckage after two CSX freight trains hit each other, causing more than 20 cars to go off the tracks just west of Fonda.

The crash, which occurred around 8 a.m., threw one car into the highway. Authorities closed a 12-mile stretch of Route 5 after the derailment. Fonda Mayor Bill Peeler said Thursday afternoon the highway could reopen in 24 to 36 hours.

Authorities said the two trains brushed against each other while they were passing each other in opposite directions on parallel tracks, resulting in the derailment.

Speaking to the media after he toured the crash scene near Martin Road, Cuomo said no hazardous materials spilled in the accident.

He said diesel fuel leaked from the trains but it posed no threat.

“There is no environmental harm done,” Cuomo said.

He said CSX is “making good progress” to get the tracks back in operation.

“It’s amazing how the trains get tossed around,” Cuomo said of what he saw. “It almost looks like a toy train system. It is also amazing no one got hurt.”

He said authorities don’t know the cause of the accident yet.

“I would caution any early assumptions as to what happened,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo said he isn’t sure how much commerce will be affected by the derailment.

“I don’t think there is going to be any significant delay to the overall commerce,” Cuomo said.

He said Amtrak, which uses the tracks for its passenger trains, is affected.

“People will feel (the delays), but it is a few days we can handle,” Cuomo said.

He said the state will oversee the situation, but the cleanup operation will be handled by private contractors.

Early Thursday, authorities said one of the cars leaked some type of material. They later determined the material posed no safety hazard. Montgomery County Sheriff Michael Amato said Thursday afternoon the material consisted of beads or pellets believed to be made of plastic.

Amato said a conductor and an engineer received minor injuries and were taken to a local hospital. He couldn’t say whether those injured were on the same or different trains.

Authorities closed Route 5 from Fonda to Palatine until further notice. The media originally were permitted to be about 100 yards from the crash site Thursday morning, but when CSX personnel arrived, they asked all non-emergency personnel to go about a mile farther down the road near the Kateri Shrine.

Montgomery County Emergency Management Director Adam Schwabrow said the two trains collided near Martin Road.

One train was heading east and the other west, said Montgomery County Sheriff Michael Amato.

Schwabrow said one of the trains was damaged extensively.

Hazardous-material teams went to the scene. Several tanker cars were attached to one of the trains.

As a precaution immediately after the crash, people living within 1,000 feet of material that spilled out of cars were told to remain inside until authorities could examine the materials.

Officials said one of the trains was transporting chemicals, but that part of the train remained secure during the accident.

Amato said two conductors, an engineer and other railroad personnel were on the two trains.

Amato said only one car went onto Route 5.

He said it may take a while to determine the cause of the crash.

He said trains will have to come into the area to remove the wreckage.

A long line of flatbed trucks carrying cranes and other construction material were on the scene Thursday afternoon to begin removing some of the wreckage.

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole said Thursday Amtrak is canceling some of the train service west of Albany because of the derailment. In some cases, Amtrak is busing passengers.

Cole said four trains normally use the line every day in each direction.

Levi Pascher and Arthur Cleveland are reporters for the Leader-Herald newspaper of Gloversville.