Graniteville remembers 2005 tragedy

GRANITEVILLE --- It was standing room only at the annual community memorial service remembering the train wreck and chemical explosion that took nine Graniteville lives in 2005.

"This is something we should not forget," state Sen. Shane Massey said.

The memorial was held at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Graniteville and featured remarks from local leaders and a memorial candle service by the families of those killed in the explosion.

"I'm really not sure how you recover from something like this, but you can rebuild," Massey said.

Tonya Gilmore, a member of Bethlehem Baptist Church, presided over the candle lighting and said the devastating circumstances had managed to pull the residents of Graniteville closer together.

"I'm comforted by the unity I see today," she said. "A tragic event is at the source of our gathering, but let us find new avenues of comfort in one another."

Members of the Graniteville emergency response team were also recognized for their service and quick response at the time of the tragedy.

Early on the morning of Jan. 6, 2005, a 42-car Norfolk Southern train crashed into two locomotives and two rail cars. The freight train was carrying more than 250 tons of toxic chlorine gas which was released in the crash.

Nine people died as a result of the toxic fumes, more than 250 people were sent to hospitals and about 5,400 people were evacuated.

Officials said the accident was caused by a displaced manual switch on the train tracks, which should have been put in the proper place by Norfolk Southern employees.

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See coverage of the event from our 225th Anniversary issue.