First Responders Describe Chaotic Scene At James River - WSET.com - ABC13

First Responders Describe Chaotic Scene At James River

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Lynchburg, VA - The cleanup began late Wednesday night after fire fighters and police secured the scene of a train derailment that led to an explosion, and forced three train cars into the James River.

The scene at 2 p.m. in Lynchburg was a chaotic one. Black billowing smoke consumed the Lynchburg skyline.

"Sounded like a jet sitting on top of us basically” said Mason Basten.

Basten owns a business on the James River and was able to watch the chaos unfold.

"You could just see a little black smoke and then it just went whoosh, I mean it was massive. The flames rolled down the river on the Lynchburg side 300-400 yards.  You could actually hear the water boiling under whatever the fuel source was, it sounded like a huge unbelievable large deep fryer down here” Basten said.

CSX train cars transporting crude oil derailed and caught fire Wednesday afternoon, feet from apartments, and businesses in downtown Lynchburg.  Three cars ended up in the James River, leaking their contents.

"Initially it was very testy” said Robert Libscomb, a Battalion Chief with the Lynchburg Fire Department.

More than 50 first responders evacuated parts of downtown, closed down streets, watched and waited for that oil to burn out.

"A great deal of fire, a great deal of heat, an unknown situation. We didn't know how many cars were involved we didn't know what product was involved, we didn't know if we had any issues with potential for spread, more explosions, so it was very testy at first” said Lipscomb.

"Nobody got hurt that's the big thing, it could've been much worse than it was” said Brad Ferguson, Chief of the Lynchburg Fire Department.

The explosion rocked downtown Lynchburg mid-day, at 2 p.m.  But miraculously, not a single person was injured.

"We train all the time for this type of thing and hopefully we never have to use it but occasionally we do” said Ferguson.

Hundreds of people were impacted by the derailment. Apartment buildings running right along the tracks were evacuated.  Residents were allowed back in just after 6 p.m.

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