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Tamaroa residents see similarities between East Palestine, 2003 train derailment

“They told us all it was safe to go home, and we did,” said Beth Cassity. “When we came home there were people uptown in hazmat suits.”

TAMAROA, Ill. — For more than a century trains have run through the heart of Tamaroa, Illinois.

“We never notice the trains at all,” said Beth Cassity.

On Feb. 9, 2003, that changed for Beth Cassity and roughly 1,000 people in the tiny Perry County town.

“We got a call from my sister-in-law saying there had been a train derailment,” said Beth Cassity.

“I could hear the noise when I was in here getting ready for church, and I didn’t think nothing of it,” said Brian Cassity.

Initially, the derailed train became a site-seeing attraction for those who lived near the tracks.

“There was smoke coming out of it and there was fire,” said Brian Cassity. “You could hear the reef valves going off on the tankers.”

“They told us all it was safe to go home, and we did,” said Beth Cassity. “When we came home there were people uptown in hazmat suits.”

“We had to evacuate,” said Brian Cassity. “We had 15 minutes to get out of town.”

"When you go on vacation it's because you want to be,” said Jeff Brocaille. “When someone tells you to be gone because you have to be gone it's different."

Emergency crews cleared out a 5-mile radius for a week after methanol, phosphoric acid, hydrochloric acid, formaldehyde, and vinyl chloride leaked from the train.

“Vinyl chloride is the same thing that we’ve got in East Palestine, and it is the worst,” said Mark Bryant.

Attorney Mark Bryant, who represented the people of Tamaroa in court, now represents residents of East Palestine, Ohio.

“I’ll never forget the first time I went to Tamaroa because the stench was terrible from the chemicals,” said Bryant.

Canadian National spent more than $1.9 million cleaning up the area.

“They were on notice that weld was faulty and they didn’t do anything about it,” said Bryant.

“If it had been in the summer and hotter it probably would’ve blew,” said Brian Cassity. “One guy said it would be Lake Tamaroa is what it would be.

In 2009, Canadian National settled the class action suit for an undisclosed amount, but many people in town say it wasn’t enough to give them peace of mind.

“Everybody has a train, or railroad town near them, needs to be worried about this,” said Bryant.

“The way derailments are happening now there’s no insurance that’s never going to happen again,” said Brian Cassity. “We just pray there ain’t tankers on it when it comes through.”

After six years of court battles, residents each received a $12,000 settlement.

Bryant is now calling on a long-term health study in the area due to the chemicals released in the spill.

To read the full NTSB report on the Tamaroa, Illinois, train derailment click here.

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