More than seven years ago, a 90-car train derailed roughly a half mile from Fred Teasley's home on Old Evans Road.
A train derailment in Columbia County in 1997 involved coal cars.
The 1997 derailment, which involved cars carrying coal, caused no injuries or environmental hazards to nearby residents.
But in light of the fatal train crash in Graniteville last week, Columbia County officials say the chance of such a disaster occurring in Columbia County, although minimal, is still there.
Teasley said worries about the possibility of a train accident close to his home have not been enough to make him move from the property where he grew up, but he admits that a similar incident as occurred in Graniteville Thursday could happen.
"I've never really thought about it, but anything can happen," the 60-year-old Evans native said.
Although Teasley has moved to a home roughly 60 yards from the tracks, he grew up in a residence 30 or 40 yards away from the tracks.
"It is just something natural for us," Teasley said. "I can remember my bedroom on the side of the house next to the tracks. I remember hearing the train coming, but never hearing it passing by because I fell asleep."
Teasley never heard the loud clang of the 1997 accident that derailed 40 cars filled with coal.
But Battalion Chief James Burnett, of the Martinez Fire Department, vividly remembers the derailment.
"When we got there on the scene, there was coal all over the place, the rails were torn up and a number of cars were torn up," Burnett said. "It looked pretty bad. It was nasty."
Burnett said they were lucky that only coal cars were involved and no one was injured.
"We consider ourselves lucky because it was coal cars," Burnett said. "As long as we keep it coal cars, we'll be OK. But we have so many different trains coming through with different chemicals, the odds are against us. But we are a whole lot more prepared. We have better training and better equipment now."
Pam Tucker took over as Columbia County's emergency services director in 1999 and was working as Richmond County's emergency management director when the 1997 derailment occurred.
"Of course, being in the business I was in, I really paid attention whenever that derailment happened in case it had been chemicals,'' she said. "Of course, when it's just coal cars, you don't have any threat.''
She said on Friday that since taking office in Columbia County, she has overseen the compilation of something called a commodity flow study, which helped the county track hazardous materials being transported through the county either by truck or train.
Tucker said that has helped the county be better prepared for how it would respond to a mass disaster involving a derailment.
Tucker said chlorine and other hazardous gases such as sulfur dioxide are transported through Columbia County every day.
Still, she said, the possibility of a leak of dangerous gases from a train derailment is much less than a crash involving a transport truck.
"These tankers are designed not to rupture,'' she said. "...This accident yesterday (Thursday in Graniteville), though, is going to be one of those few and far in between oddities. This is not common, but it also could happen tomorrow. You never know.''
Since Thursday's train crash in Graniteville, which killed at least nine and sent many to the hospital for treatment, Tucker said her office has offered to provide any backup support needed to emergency officials in the Graniteville area. The crash occurred in the early morning hours as a Norfolk Southern train traveled off its intended path onto a spur of the railroad and into two parked train cars, causing dangerous chlorine to leak out.
Tucker said her office also is willing to accept any donations the public might want to make to those affected by the crash.
As part of planning a disaster response exercise later this month, Tucker said a mock derailment exercise also might be considered.
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