A Derailed Train, Toxic Chemicals & An Arrested Journalist Has Residents In An Ohio Town Living In Fear

Animals in the area are in danger.

Ohio train derailment explosion and sick fox Twitter / Instagram

On February 3, 2023, in East Palestine, Ohio, a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous materials was traveling from Matteson, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania.

50 cars from the 150 train cars that made up the massive locomotive had gone off the track near the Pennsylvania state line — a train derailment that would soon release the highly toxic chemical, vinyl chloride, into the air.

Of the 50 cars derailed from the Ohio train, 10 were carrying hazardous chemicals, and merely five were carrying vinyl chloride, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.


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However, despite the number of cars carrying the chemical being low, that didn’t stop several hundreds of thousands of pounds of the gas from nearly being exposed to the fires and explosions of the derailment. 


This led to a controlled release and detonation of the toxic chemicals into the air on February 6, putting residents near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border at risk.

As a result of the vinyl chloride burning from the Ohio train derailment, animals in the area have started dying.

Shortly after the disaster, Mayor Trent Conaway and Governor Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency during a press conference and ordered that the 4,700+ inhabitants of the small village evacuate the area.

Upon returning, however, the water and air quality may have put hundreds and maybe thousands of animals at risk of serious illness or death.



In fact, there have been many reports that animals have already started dying — chickens, fish in the creeks, and foxes, among many others.


Taylor Holzer, a registered fox keeper, lives just outside of the original East Palestine evacuation zone and has already experienced one death among his foxes, with others falling incredibly ill.

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During an interview with WKBN27, he admitted that all of his foxes had been acting differently since the explosion — weak, limp, sudden bursts of rapid pacing, and respiratory problems.


When vinyl chloride is burned phosgene and hydrogen chloride are released into the air.

Both are toxic chemicals that can cause symptoms like vomiting, breathing troubles, and irritation to the skin, eyes, nose, and throat.

Phosgene is considered safe at 0.1 parts per million for an eight-hour exposure and 0.2 ppm for a 15-minute exposure.

Hydrogen chloride is safe at 5 ppm for an eight-hour exposure.

Released into an area where people are living for far more than eight hours, the chemicals pose a major risk.

The residents of East Palestine, Ohio, have heard no answer from their local government or Norfolk Southern.

Despite all of the reported problems with the air quality and the rise in animal sickness/death, there has been no answer or reparation for the people of East Palestine, Ohio, aside from a small $25,000 “donation” from Norfolk Southern Railway.


Residents of the town are furious and have no trust whatsoever in what they’re being told — which is that everything is safe and fine and no one is at risk any longer.

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Mayor Conaway during a press conference vowed that he would hold Norfolk Southern Railway accountable for the environmental catastrophe that is currently unfolding.


"This isn’t going to get swept under the rug. I’m not going to be the country bumpkin that gets talked over by a big corporation," Conaway said. 

"We’re going to hold their feet to the fire. They’re going to do what they said they were going to do, and they’re going to protect the people of this town."

They have allegedly enlisted the help of the Environmental Protection Agency in order to ensure that the air quality and water quality are safe, but the reports of sick and dying animals seem to counter their claims.

A reporter was also arrested while trying to report on Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s press conference.

A NewsNation reporter named Evan Lambert was arrested on February 8, 2023, during a press conference hosted at the East Palestine High School gymnasium.


He was allegedly being loud, and wouldn’t stop talking when they had asked him to.

NewsNation affiliate reporter Megan Lee recounted the situation, describing that there was a “physical altercation toward Evan,” which led to his arrest.

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DeWine later commented on the incident, claiming that he hadn’t ordered the arrest.


“It has always been my practice that if I’m doing a press conference, someone wants to report out there and they want to be talking back to the people back on channel, whatever, they have every right to do that,” DeWine said. “If someone was stopped from doing that, or told they could not do that, that was wrong. It was nothing that I authorized.”

Lambert was charged with trespassing, and there have been no other reports of journalists being arrested.

Still, residents and reporters, and social media commentators have noted how suspicious it all seems to them, sprouting theories about how or why the train may have derailed and why mainstream news outlets don’t seem to be pushing the story as much.


Just 10 days after the train derailment it still seems like there’s no end in sight as residents continue to beg for answers.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is an Assistant Editor who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics. Keep up with his rants about current events on his Twitter.