Federal officials continue to sift through a mountain of information in the Lynchburg train derailment, lead investigator Jim Southworth said.
Southworth, of the National Transportation Safety Board, was among some 80 federal, state and local officials who attended a rail safety roundtable organized Monday by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner.
Southworth was not one of the speakers, but in an interview afterward he said the investigation into what caused the April 30 train derailment in Lynchburg is continuing at a slow and deliberate pace.
Southworth said officials will review CSX’s maintenance and inspections records going back months.
In addition, the team will do a 3-D scan, inside and out, of the oil tanker that ruptured and send pieces of it off to a lab for metallurgical testing.
Other tankers in the 105-unit train that derailed will be scanned as well to compare their performance to the ruptured unit.
Southworth said it is too early to comment on what may have caused the derailment that upset 17 oil tanker cars, three of which fell into the James River.
He said Monday he hoped to complete the investigation in a year or less.
“There is a lot of interest in what happened here because of the type of tanker cars,” he noted. “It’s going to be scrutinized quite deliberately.”
The train that derailed in downtown Lynchburg contained a mix of older and newer model oil tankers, but the car that ruptured was a newer model intended to be safer in the event of an crash.
The derailment, which sparked a large fire on the river but caused no injuries, has made Lynchburg part of a national debate on the best way to ship crude oil in the country.
So far, there has been no evidence the derailment was caused by operator error, Southworth said. He declined to comment on other possibilities and said the investigation still is in the fact-gathering stage.
Investigators no longer are working on-site at the derailment scene, but continue to gather information and analyze the train cars and pieces of the damaged track.
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