Youngstown, FL Train Derailment with Chlorine Gas Cloud, Feb 1978
At least 80 people were treated at hospitals for the effects of the gas, which turns to acid in the lungs and leaves victims bleeding from the nose and mouth. "It was instant death," said AL SMITH, an EPA emergency coordinator. "The kind of death we're talking about is horrible. It literally burns your lungs up."
Eight teen-agers packed into one car for a return trip from a party in a nearby community were caught in the cloud. They tried to hide from the fumes in the swamp. Four died. One of them 15 year-old FRANKIE McKENZIE of Fountain Fla., was not found for 14 hours, lying dead in an open field near the spewing tanker car, a jacket wrapped around her head in a futile attempt to thwart the gas.
At least 45 other people, including four sheriff's deputies, were hospitalized, nine in critical condition. All of the train's crew members, trained to run upwind from a chemical spill, escaped unharmed. But engineer RAY SHORES, of Panama City ran so far into the swamp that he wasn't found until eight hours after the crash. He guided a search helicopter to himself with a walkie-talkie he had taken from the train.
"It happened so fast I really don't know what happened," SHORES said. "There was no noise or anything like that. It just jumped the tracks and derailed. I finally got the train stopped, but it just kept derailing."
Most of the train carried lumber flats, but nine tanker cars held toxic chemicals. Two of the tanks contained chlorine used mainly in bleaching and water purification; one held liquefied petroleum gas and began leaking late Sunday; four were filled with caustic soda; one had amonia[sic] nitrate, and one had sodium hydroxide.
Kingsport Times Tennessee 1978-02-27