A CSX freight train collided with a waste-hauling truck Tuesday afternoon in an industrial area east of Baltimore, derailing 15 rail cars, damaging nearby buildings and causing an explosion that could be felt for miles. The truck driver, who was trapped briefly, was in serious but stable condition.
Baltimore County police identified the man they say was behind the wheel of the trash truck involved in the derailment of a CSX train in Rosedale as John J. Alban Jr., 50, a retired Baltimore County firefighter, of the 1200 block of Sussex Road in Essex.
He was said to be in serious but stable condition following the collision and explosion that shook the area for miles and created an outpouring of witness reports on social media.
Cars and onlookers went toward the scene, capturing it in dramatic photos and video. About 50 people walking along the train tracks to get a closer look at the derailment were turned away by police, citing safety concerns.
Davon Keller of Essex, who ran toward the smoking freight cars, said he had never seen anything like the accident.
"I was like, Oh my God," Keller, 31, said.
Residents in the area reported on Twitter that there was a loud boom heard as far away as Canton, Pasadena and Perry Hall, and smoke could be seen billowing skyward from downtown Baltimore.
Two rail cars carrying chemicals continued to burn for several hours after the crash that caused 15 cars to derail, according to police and fire officials. The fire was brought under control near midnight Tuesday, police said in a statement.
Flames and a dark cloud of smoke could be seen billowing over the city for hours. The powerful explosion was caught on several amateur videos. (Caution: foul language.)
"I felt it on Silver Spring Road," a Patch commenter wrote. "My dogs were barking as if someone had just banged really hard on my front door. Yikes! Hold your breath everyone! CSX carries some dangerous chemicals."
Officials said there was no threat to the public from chemical exposure.
At least one of the rail cars involved in the derailment was carrying the industrial chemical sodium chlorate, which is classified by the U.S. Department of Transportation as a hazardous material, according to a news release from CSX. But the car carrying that chemical was not on fire, officials said, and there was no release of harmful materials.
The cars that were on fire Tuesday evening contained the chemicals fluorosilicic acid and teraphthalic acid, according to officials. Neither is a toxic inhalant. Teraphthalic acid is used as a filler in some military smoke grenades and used in plastic-making; fluorosilicic acid is commonly used in the fluoridation of water.
"There's no evidence of any need for an evacuation or a need for panic at all," said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. "The air here is clear."
Baltimore County Fire Chief John Hohman said the incident "would be much more serious if there were toxic inhalants."
No homes were evacuated as a result of the collision and explosion but businesses in a 20-block area surrounding the scene were notified of the incident. There was no mandatory evacuation, Hohman said.
The driver of the truck was listed in serious but stable condition at the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, officials said. Two CSX employees—an engineer and a conductor—aboard the train at the time of the collision were not seriously injured, according to a news release from CSX.
Police said surrounding buildings were partially collapsed, with an auto body shop severely damaged. Homes in the area had damage to windows, witnesses said.
Police say they received a call at 2:02 p.m. May 28 reporting a derailed CSX train in the 7500 block of Lake Drive near an industrial park in Rosedale. The 45-car train was on its way from Selkirk, NY, to Waycross, GA, and was carrying a variety of materials ranging from lumber to printing paper, according to CSX.
Approximately 60 emergency units from Baltimore County and City as well as Martin’s State Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Airport were on the scene, according to a report from WJZ’s Adam May.
Exits to Route 40 from Interstates 95 and 895 were closed. Route 40 was closed at 68th Street at the Baltimore City-County line and at Rosedale Avenue, according to State Highway Administration spokesman Charlie Gischlar. Gischlar also said that the Baltimore Beltway ramp onto westbound Route 40 toward Baltimore City was closed.
All lanes on US 40 and area interstate ramps affected were reopened as of late Tuesday.
Amtrak said the derailment did not affect its train schedule because the train was not on tracks it uses.
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This article was updated at 7:32 a.m. Wednesday to reflect that the fire was brought under control.