Federal investigators will spend the coming days piecing together what caused a chemical-carrying CSX train to collide with a trash truck, derail and explode at a rail crossing in suburban Baltimore.


Helicopters circle around as smoke billows from a train derailment that caused a major explosion in Baltimore's Rosedale neighborhood (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Authorities say a dozen or so rail cars — at least one carrying hazardous materials — went off the tracks around 2 p.m. Tuesday in Rosedale, Md., a suburb east of Baltimore. Several rail cars caught fire, sending a plume of black and gray smoke into the air that could be seen for miles, and an explosion rattled homes at least a half-mile away.

Only one person — the trash truck driver — was seriously injured. 50-year-old John J. Alban Jr., was in serious condition Tuesday night at Maryland Shock Trauma, a hospital spokeswoman said. Two CSX workers aboard weren't hurt.

Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board said late Tuesday that the collision occurred at a private crossing where the only marking was a stop sign. He said it wasn't clear why the truck was crossing the tracks or whether it was authorized to be there.

A team of 15 NTSB investigators was on the scene and would likely remain there for up to a week, Sumwalt said.

Gary Sease, a spokesman for CSX Transportation Inc., said four of the cars believed derailed carried terephthalic acid, which is used in the production of plastics and polyester, among other things. He said it is not listed as a hazardous material.

Baltimore County officials say the burning rail cars are not a public health threat.

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