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NTSB accuses Norfolk Southern of ‘unconscionable’ interference in East Palestine probe

NTSB accuses Norfolk Southern of ‘unconscionable’ interference in East Palestine probe

Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board offered scathing testimony during a hearing Tuesday marking the conclusion of their investigation into the catastrophic February 2023 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

NTSB Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy accused Norfolk Southern railroad of interfering in the federal probe on multiple occasions. 

She claimed a Norfolk Southern contractor lied when he said he did not keep written records on temperatures within the tanker cars – which were carrying the caustic vinyl chloride that was later burned off or had spilled into the local aquifer.

Homendy claimed in her closing remarks that the NTSB later interviewed Norfolk Southern employees who revealed text messages were sent between the railroad and contractor.

WHISTLEBLOWER ALLEGES MISTAKES IN INITIAL EAST PALESTINE DISASTER RESPONSE

"It took about two months before our team received those communications – two months before those communications were provided to our team," Homendy said via a transcript provided to Fox News Digital.

"As stated in the report we just adopted, our Investigator-In-Charge told Norfolk Southern on February 3rd to preserve all evidence for the investigation."

Homendy also claimed Norfolk Southern wrongly hired a private company to test "commercially purchased" vinyl chloride versus the chemicals that had spilled into Ohio and Pennsylvania soil, and filed their results with the NTSB.

"Not only did these actions violate our party agreement, but they violated the regulations governing our evidence collection," Homendy said.

"Our investigations are never conducted for the purpose of determining the rights or liabilities of a party – we collect the evidence, evaluate the facts, and develop lessons learned with one goal in mind: to prevent the next train derailment and hazardous materials release," she said.

POLITICIANS REACT TO BIDEN VISITING EAST PALESTINE AFTER 1 YEAR: ‘TOO LITTLE TOO LATE’

"[That] is why I’m so deeply troubled with how Norfolk Southern approached this investigation."

The chairwoman also said officials from the railroad visited each board member, as is custom, in the run-up to the NTSB’s final meeting on the matter, but had purportedly mentioned it was their hope that the agency would dispel the "rumor" Norfolk Southern made the call to "vent-and-burn" the vinyl chloride."

Homendy called the reported inquiry "unethical and inappropriate," and went on to include a veiled "threat" when railroad officials told board members the Biden administration wanted to move on from the crisis.

Homendy denied the administration ever made such overtures.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

"Norfolk Southern’s actions were unconscionable. I want everyone who works with the NTSB – on current and future investigations – to understand this: we are impervious to anything but the truth," she said.

Officials from Norfolk Southern, however, strenuously denied the allegations made by the NTSB.

"At all times, Norfolk Southern cooperated fully and ethically with the investigation, with full transparency," a spokesperson said.

"Our communications with NTSB staff and board members were always motivated by a desire to ensure they had all the relevant information for their independent evaluation and by a shared commitment to advance rail safety."

Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, slammed the railroad, telling The Associated Press that Homendy's findings "confirm[ed] my worst fears."

"The derailment and subsequent chemical explosion were preventable tragedies resulting from a series of errors made by Norfolk Southern and its contractors."

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