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Police: Ninth body found near train wreck

Several South Carolina plant workers still not accounted for

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The impact of a train collision was limited by its rural location.
South Carolina
Norfolk Southern Corporation
Transportation Accidents

(CNN) -- The body of a ninth person killed when a train crash released a deadly cloud of chlorine gas was found Saturday inside a Graniteville, South Carolina, textile plant, authorities said.

Searchers wearing protective suits and oxygen tanks found the body in the Avondale Mills plant, said Thom Berry, spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The body has yet to be identified, and Berry could not confirm whether the person was a plant employee.

Five Avondale Mills workers are known to have died after chlorine leaked from several railcars involved in an early morning accident. Officials said a northbound Norfolk Southern train hit parked rail cars.

The crash derailed 14 cars, including three that were carrying 90 tons of chlorine and another car carrying sodium hydroxide.

An Avondale Mills plant official said some its employees are unaccounted for, but they were not officially listed as missing.

The three other victims were the Norfolk Southern train's engineer, a man in his home and a man found in his truck.

About 240 other people became ill.

Unsafe levels of chlorine were recorded Saturday near the scene of the accident, despite 40 tons of lime dropped on the area in an attempt to contain the fumes, National Transportation Safety Board spokeswoman Debbie Hersman said.

About 5,400 residents are unable to return to their homes. Berry said 12 people ignored an evacuation order and remained in their houses.

FBI investigation

The FBI was testing the switch that diverted the train onto the parallel track for fingerprints, Hersman said.

Authorities do not believe the switch was tampered with, she said.

"People with the appropriate access to the switch set it the way we found it. We are trying to determine if that position was what it was supposed to be."

The switch was "lined and locked" into position for the train to move on the parallel track, where the other cars were parked. Investigators are trying to find out why that happened, Hersman said.

The train's engineer applied his emergency brakes just before the collision, she said.

"We don't have any indication of any criminal acts, any sabotage, any terrorism. At this point, we don't know it was anything but a transportation accident," she said.

Investigators have retrieved data recorders from one train and interviewed the crew members who parked the cars on the parallel track and left for the night shortly before the crash occurred.

"Every expectation that we have for any transportation scene is that it's safe," Hersman said. "We will be looking at what the job safety briefing was, the duty of the crew. Regardless of what anybody's hours of service are, we always expect them to have a safe work site."

Berry said now that the missing person had been found, repair and removal operations would begin.

"The focus is shifting to repair the damaged chlorine car," he said.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has declared a state of emergency for Aiken County, near the Georgia border, and two decontamination sites have been set up.

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