Skip to main content

New Jersey bridge was adjusted day before train derailed, NTSB says

By the CNN Wire Staff
December 4, 2012 -- Updated 0238 GMT (1038 HKT)
  • Crew noticed bridge was 4 inches from being locked in place and corrected problem
  • Conrail later sent supervisors to inspect the bridge; four trains crossed bridge but fifth derailed
  • Residents asked to stay in homes with windows closed because of toxic fumes

(CNN) -- The day before a train derailed on a New Jersey bridge, sending several cars into the water and hazardous chemicals into the air, railroad workers responded to a report of alignment problems with the structure, the chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board said Monday.

A railroad crew that wanted to cross the bridge on November 29 noticed that the bridge was 4 inches from being closed, NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said. The crew got the bridge to lock into place with several more attempts on a keypad that signals the bridge to close.

Two supervisors from Conrail, which owns and operates the track and the bridge, spent two hours on the bridge later that morning.

"They inspected the bridge and they made adjustments so it would work properly and they closed the trouble ticket," Hersman said.

Four trains passed over the bridge, but only a few cars on the fifth train cleared the bridge before seven cars derailed. Investigators said it was still too early to determine the cause of the accident, and it is unclear whether the bridge collapsed before the train derailed or after the cars started to tumble.

"We still have a lot of work to do," Hersman said. "We will not be determining cause on scene."

Investigators still cannot access the accident site.

Heightened levels of chemicals were detected in the air around the train derailment site and in other areas of Paulsboro, New Jersey, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Kathleen Moore told reporters Monday morning.

A "shelter in place" order has been issued for Paulsboro, and authorities are asking residents to stay in their homes with the windows closed. All officials have been pulled away from the derailment site. All schools in the city of Paulsboro were closed Monday.

NTSB: Railroad bridge that collapsed was inspected in November

Part of complete coverage on
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0507 GMT (1307 HKT)
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0006 GMT (0806 HKT)
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.