City continues to await results of federal derailment probe

Published on Tuesday, 18 April 2017 22:55
Written by LISA BACKUS


NEW BRITAIN - City officials are waiting for the outcome of a Federal Railway Administration investigation before pursuing Pan Am Railways for the $38,432 cost of cleaning up after a train derailment in December.

As of Monday, city officials said they are waiting for the outcome of the FRA investigation before pursuing the reimbursement. “Our office has been in contact with representatives of both Pan Am Railways and Cherry Hill Construction Co. throughout this process,” Skelly said. “We have been advised that the Federal Railroad Administration will be completing its investigation of the cause of the derailment shortly. Rather than spending the time and money associated with the preparation and service of a lawsuit and court filing fees, etc., the more prudent course is to wait for the report and to then try to resolve our claim for reimbursement with the responsible or responsible parties.”

If the city is unable to reach an agreement with the responsible parties, “then a lawsuit will be filed to recoup the city’s expenses caused by the derailment,” Skelly said.

The freight train derailed Dec. 6 as it was rounding a curve in front of Columbus Plaza, leaving seven cars on their side with some debris falling into the road. Two tanker cars came to a stop across Chestnut Street. The cleanup took three days, with police maintaining a presence in the area to prevent people from getting too close.

The police department spent $24,405 in overtime and regular time to deal with the cleanup and another $893 in other expenses, such as gas for the mobile command center, which was stationed at. The Department of Public Works, the Health Department, the fire department and New Britain EMS also incurred expenses.

The city sent Am Railways President David A. Fink and Naugatuck Railroad Company President Howard Pinkus a bill for $38,432 in December. The letter issued by city attorney Joseph Skelly also billed the company $40,000 for the repair of a brick wall at Columbus Plaza. But Skelly told the railway officials that if they were to foot the bill to remove the wall, he would take the $40,000 off the tab that was owed the city.

In early March, Skelly said in a statement that the city would consider litigation since the bill hadn’t been paid yet.

Pan Am Railways, which owns the tracks, attributed the derailment to overloaded freight cars, according to a report filed by Pan Am Railways with the FRA.

Pan Am Railways is required to self-report what they believe was the cause of the derailment to the FRA, which is conducting its own investigation. Pan Am estimated in the report that the track that runs along Columbus Boulevard sustained more than $100,000 in damage and there was another $80,000 in damage to equipment.

Frost Bridge Associates, which leases and loaded the cars, says the cars were properly weighed and loaded before leaving its yard, according to the Associated Press.

The FRA did not provide information on the investigation or when it would be concluded.

Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or

Posted in New Britain Herald, General News, New Britain on Tuesday, 18 April 2017 22:55. Updated: Tuesday, 18 April 2017 22:57.