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Train carrying coal derails in Jackson County

Crews are removing the crumbled train cars from the tracks and hauling away the coal that was inside them.

Posted: May 6, 2019 10:51 AM
Updated: May 7, 2019 12:15 PM

UPDATE: Crews from Birmingham and Chattanooga are at the scene.

Cleanup is expected to take as long as 24 hours, which means it would be finished around 10 a.m. on Tuesday. Crews are bringing in bulldozers to clean up the derailment.

Deputies say the Norfolk Southern train went off the tracks around 10 a.m. Monday morning, spilling coal on County Road 8 at Venson Street. Police are only letting people who live on the street come through.

There were no reported injuries, and the cause of the derailment is under investigation. On Monday, school buses had to take an alternative route.

"I had to go pick up my children today from school, and I may have to take them again in the morning," said Brooklyn Moore, who lives next to the train derailment.

Woodville High School's principal, Jamie Darwin, said the same bus route will be taken Tuesday morning. He said the buses will go up County Road 30 and then come down County Road 8. 

"I mean, it's an absolute mess," said Michael Gardner, who lives in front of the train tracks.

Gardner is used to the sound of the trains going by in front of his house. He was sitting on his porch Monday morning when he saw something that didn't quite look right.

"This one was particularly different, because I noticed it was going faster than normal, and when I say faster than normal, I mean gravel was flying off the top of the cars," Gardner said.

When Gardner went back inside his house, he says the floor boards started to shake. When he came back out, he saw the damage and immediately called 911.

Gardner said the sound is something he'll never forget.

"Very loud, screeching metal, probably the worst situation imaginable in my experience," he said.

About 20 cars are off the track and some of the railroad tracks are actually bent up. Jackson County deputies say the trains were carrying coal, and they're glad it's contained to a small area of road.

"They were not carrying hazardous material at the time. Had this been chlorine or something like that, it would have been a very serious incident. We probably would've had people dead," said Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.

Harnen says he hasn't seen anything like this in the eight years he's been with the sheriff's office. Right now, he said they're in a holding pattern.

"Just a waiting game. We're waiting on them to get the track cleared and back in order, because there's miles and miles away that are on standby waiting on this to clear up," Harnen said.

We reached out to Norfolk Southern and received the following statement:

"At about 10 a.m. today, 26 coal cars on a Norfolk Southern train derailed in Woodville, Alabama. The coal train was traveling east en route to Atlanta.

Norfolk Southern personnel are on site working with local authorities to coordinate cleanup efforts and minimize any impacts to the community."

From earlier: 

The Jackson County Emergency Management Agency says it and public safety agencies are currently on the scene of a train derailment in Woodville.

The train was carrying coal, and there is no threat to residents, according to officials.

Motorists are advised to avoid the area of County Road 8 between Venson Street and County Road 30.

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