'Cars on top of cars': Train derailment jolts people awake in Washington County

32 cars derailed just before 1 a.m. Fortunately, no one was injured.

OCONEE, Ga. — Norfolk Southern crews have worked since early Monday morning to clear out and put down new railroad tracks in Oconee in Washington County.

32 cars derailed just before 1 a.m., and although no one was injured, it made for a frightening morning jolt for some folks who live nearby.

"It was pretty loud. I knew when I first heard it it was probably a derailment because nothing would make that much noise and it was pretty loud and then it got real quiet," said Farris Tompkins. "There was cars on top of cars for probably about 150 yards."

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He’s lived in the area for decades and saw cars turned sideways on the trucks, or crunched up like an accordion.

Sheriff Joel Cochran says people told him the scenario was terrifying.

"I have a deputy that lives in the vicinity and he thought someone had come in his house," he said.

According to a statement from Norfolk Southern, the train was passing through from South Carolina.

When the sun came up, crews managed to clear the area, tossing wheels in a pile like discarded dumbbells. Cranes moved in and gently laid down new tracks.

Right now, Norfolk Southern says they are investigating to see what caused the derailment.

Sheriff Cochran says Central Drive should reopen sometime late Monday night or early Tuesday morning.

A train also derailed in Washington County in September 2020 after tropical system Sally caused heavy rains that washed out roads and caused flooding there.

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