▶ Watch Video: What to know about the hazardous materials on the train derailed in Ohio

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday called for a congressional investigation following the Feb. 3 train derailment near East Palestine, Ohio — in which 38 rail cars derailed, including 11 which contained hazardous materials. The derailment forced hundreds of nearby residents to evacuate for several days. 

The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that along with the 38 rail cars that derailed, another 12 cars were damaged by a fire. 

At a news conference Tuesday, DeWine told reporters he was informed that the train, prior to its derailment, had not been considered a “high hazardous material train,” so the state was not notified that it was passing through. 

“Frankly, if this is true, this is absurd and we need to look at this.” DeWine said. “Congress needs to take a look at how these things are handled. We should know when we have trains carrying hazardous materials that are going through the state of Ohio.”

DeWine addressed concerns about harmful chemicals remaining in the air, and said that following a controlled release of chemicals, members of the Ohio National Guard were sent into the area in protective suits to measure the air, and no one was allowed back into the area until it was deemed safe. 

“In fact, the monitoring showed that the air was basically what it was prior to the actual train crash,” he said. 

Below is a timeline of events following the train derailment. 

Feb. 3: Train derailment 

On Feb. 3., about 50 cars derailed in East Palestine as a train was carrying a variety of freight from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania, rail operator Norfolk Southern said. No injuries were reported. 

First responders found evidence of one of the train cars releasing vinyl chloride, NTSB member Michael Graham said at a press conference. Vinyl chloride is used to make the polyvinyl chloride hard plastic resin used in a variety of plastic products, including pipes, wires and packaging materials.

This photo taken with a drone shows portions of a Norfolk and Southern freight train that derailed Friday night in East Palestine, Ohio are still on fire at mid-day Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Feb. 5: Remaining residents ordered to evacuate 

One day after officials issued evacuation orders to hundreds of residents near the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line, they urgently warned any residents who had declined to leave to evacuate immediately, saying a rail car was at risk of a potential explosion that could launch deadly shrapnel as far as a mile.

“You need to leave, you just need to leave. This is a matter of life and death,” DeWine told residents. 

Officials said residents needed to evacuate so crews could release chemicals from some of the derailed cars for a controlled burn.

Feb. 6: Controlled release of the rail cars’ chemicals

Crews released toxic chemicals into the air from five derailed tanker cars that were in danger of exploding

Vinyl chloride was slowly released from five rail cars into a trough that was then ignited, creating a large plume above the village of East Palestine.

Officials said after the controlled release crews would begin the “wrecking” process, in which the cars are moved off the tracks and relocated to a safe area where they’ll be looked at by National Transportation Safety Board officials.

Officials said that although it was the last option, the detonation went “perfect.”

A look at the controlled release of material from the derailed train cars in East Palestine, Ohio.

CBS Pittsburgh

February 8: Evacuation order lifted

Residents were told they could return to their homes about five days after the incident. 

East Palestine Fire Chief Keith Drabick said that air and water samples determined that the evacuation area, which covered about a one-mile radius, was safe for residents to return. 

“The evacuation order has been lifted, if you were asked to evacuate your residence due to the incident in East Palestine, you are permitted to return home. Please return in a safe and orderly manner,” Beaver County Emergency Services tweeted.

Feb. 13: Video of train prior to derailment shows sparks and flames

A video that captured footage of the train about 20 miles before it reached the site where it derailed raised questions about when the crew knew there was a problem, CBS Pittsburgh reported. 

The video, obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, was taken by a security camera at an equipment plant in Salem, Ohio. What appears to be sparks and flames can be seen in the video under one of the train cars as it passes the plant. The National Transportation Safety Board referenced the video at a news conference last week.

“We have obtained two videos which show preliminary indications of mechanical issues on one of the rail car axles,” Michael Graham, a member of the NTSB, said.