May 15, 2001 -- An out-of-control freight train carrying hazardous materials rolled more than 60 miles across northwestern Ohio today before a train company worker was able to jump on board and stop the unmanned locomotive.
The Wood County sheriff's department initially reported the 47-car CSX freight train went out of control after a conductor apparently suffered a heart attack. But, after the train was stopped near Kenton, Ohio, police said no one was on board.
"No one had a heart attack. There was no one on the train at all," said Gerlene Draper, a Kenton police dispatcher.
It Just Rolled Away
In a statement, CSX Transportation Inc. said officials were investigating the cause of the incident.
Sources told ABC affiliate WTVG in Ohio that the train originated at a trainyard southeast of Toledo. The train was being assembled on a local track and being moved to a departure track in the Norfolk Southern railyard in nearby Stanley, when something went wrong.
CSX said the train traveled approximately 66 miles through Hancock County and was heading south toward Kenton when Jon Hosfeld, a 31-year CSX official, jumped aboard. CSX had already begun slowing the mammoth runaway by hooking a catch engine to the rear of the train. That enabled Hosfeld to board the lead engine and shut it down.
Two of the train's cars, CSX said, were carrying molten phenol, a toxic, non-flammable product used as both a general disinfectant and to make dyes, paints and pharmaceuticals; 25 of the cars were empty.
Sources told an ABC affiliate that the train was going at least 35 mph but may have been going as fast as 60 mph at one point. The city safety director in Findlay, Ohio, said officials tried to derail the train near there, but were unsuccessful. A dispatcher said that after passing Findlay, the train was slowing down because it was moving uphill.
At one point, a sheriff's deputy tried to stop the train by shooting its fuel tank. He also failed.
Dan Middleton, jail supervisor at the Hardin County Sheriff's Department, said authorities cleared the "high-risk areas" of people and locked all crossings to avoid potential injuries.
Wendy Sheridan from ABC affiliate WTVG and ABCNEWS' Dean Schabner contributed to this report.