Investigators who’ve been trying to figure out the cause of a New Jersey Transit train crash that killed one and injured more than 100 others are being hindered by the fact that they can’t gain access to the front cab of the train because the asbestos levels are too high on site.
According to an NBC News report, crews need to get to the event recorder and the forward facing camera on the doomed train, but because the vehicle crashed into the old station, it caused much structural damage, resulting in piles of debris that contain toxic asbestos materials.
“Extensive debris removal must be completed before investigators can access the train and then have the train removed,” the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) explained on Saturday afternoon.
As a matter of fact, the asbestos levels were so high on Friday that investigators had to leave the station, which was built about a century ago when asbestos use was commonplace.
However, crews were able to remove one of the train’s two event recorders, a.k.a. the black box, but confronted issues when trying to download the information contained therein. The recorder was then sent to the manufacturer and information should be shared with NTSB officials soon.
Video recorders from other trains that were at the station have been accessed for information as well.
This is all reminiscent of the scene after the World Trade Center Towers fell. The ground, at the time, was littered with debris and much of it contained asbestos. This time, at least, the dangers were recognized quickly and, for the most part, exposure was avoided by pulling workers away from the site.
That’s not to say, of course, that EMTs, police, fire personnel, good Samaritans, and unfortunate individuals who just happened to be there, weren’t exposed to asbestos before the warnings were issued. After all, when such a disaster occurs, many people keen to assist simply run into the thick of the mess without regards for their safety, intent on saving the injured.
Unfortunately, when this happens, especially when asbestos is present, fibers can be inhaled and lodge in the lung area. It could be decades before anyone who inhaled asbestos at the Hoboken train crash site is diagnosed with mesothelioma, and many of the individuals who were there that day may not even remember the details of the event by that time.
Nonetheless, that small encounter with asbestos could be an eventual cause of mesothelioma.
Similar scenarios occur with firefighters who are sent into a burning building that may contain asbestos and when they are sent to a site after a blaze to conduct rescue and recovery.
While most fire companies are pretty diligent about safety measures these days, that wasn’t always the case, making firefighters of old one of the groups of workers that have high rates of mesothelioma among those in their profession.