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Pennsylvania Train Engineer Sentenced to 1 Year Imprisonment for Role in HAZMAT Derailment

On September 29, 2009, Michael Seifert, a former Norfolk Southern (NS) train engineer, pled guilty and was sentenced in McKean County Court of Common Pleas, Smethport, Pennsylvania to one year incarceration, 24 months probation, and ordered to pay a $3,000 fine and perform 600 hours of community service. The court also stipulated that he cannot operate a commercial vehicle for a period of two years. The criminal charges were related to a train derailment in northwestern Pennsylvania in June 2006 that spilled 42,000 gallons of sodium hydroxide waste into the soil, wetlands, and waters of two counties in Northwestern Pennsylvania. A complaint was subsequently filed by the McKean County District Attorneys Office in March 2007 alleged that Mr. Seifert was under the influence of controlled substances at the time of the derailment.

The DOT/OIG investigation determined that the NS freight train crew failed to apply air brakes after cresting a hill. Although the speed limit on the downhill grade was 15 mph, at the time of the derailment the train was traveling at a speed of 76 mph. A Federal Rail Administration (FRA) incident report revealed that Mr. Seifert had tested positive for drugs following the accident. The case was investigated jointly with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the FRA.