The Daily Mail first broke the news of this revelation, citing newly emerged recordings of frantic 911 calls it obtained. Emergency dispatchers were initially reassuring concerned callers that there was no need to evacuate. The dispatchers had been advised that the 38 cars involved in the accident contained "some type of drinking alcohol."
Within two hours of the derailment, a firefighter on the scene called 911 to give an assessment of the substances that spilled. The firefighter said: "We have been advised the tankers are all malt liquor." A male voice on the other end of the line attested to the malt liquor story, adding that the scene was "very, very chaotic."
A male resident called 911 to ask what was in the train cars, prompting the female dispatcher to ask a colleague. She asked what substance was in the front cars that derailed, and if any hazardous materials were present. The dispatcher returned the call and told the resident: "There was some type of drinking alcohol in the front, [though] I'm not sure what was in the back."
One desperate grandmother also called, saying: "If it's chemicals [that spilled], I want to go and get my granddaughter." The dispatcher reassured her that she and her granddaughter were "good" as there was no need to evacuate. (Related: Eric Coppolino and the Health Ranger call for the TOTAL EVACUATION of East Palestine due to extremely toxic "dioxin fallout" that will poison the land and crops for GENERATIONS.)
Reports revealed that malt liquor was indeed on the Norfolk Southern train that derailed. However, it later emerged that five of the 38 train cars contained toxic substances –including vinyl chloride, which is used to make plastic. Authorities ordered the spilled substances to be burned, resulting in these chemicals turning into dioxins that caused respiratory problems and skin irritation among residents.
According to the Mail, city officials blamed the erroneous reports and conflicting advice on Norfolk Southern's initial response minutes after the crash. Brian Drabick, chief of the East Palestine Fire Department (EPFD), said dispatchers were working off information provided by the company.
Based on emails and text messages obtained and published by the news outlet, the fire chief had to bear the brunt of the poor communication among local and federal officials. This, the Mail added, came as he desperately tried to lead East Palestine through the disaster.
In the days following the derailment, Drabick wrote about how he felt "defeated, useless and so angry." He became furious after being informed that one of his firefighters had developed asthma due to exposure to toxic chemicals. The fire chief lamented: "Why does this have to be so hard?"
The correspondences also revealed how the fire chief felt like he was left to "sit by and watch s**t fall apart. They also disclosed how Drabick felt like Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine had abandoned him. Moreover, he admitted to having to take a moment because he was getting "overwhelmed" with everything that was happening.
In one of the messages, Drabick disclosed that he had lost faith in the East Palestine City Health Department after it told him to treat the derailment "like a normal house fire."
Visit Disaster.news for more stories about the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment and chemical spill.
Watch East Palestine resident Tracy Hager discloses how some people still experience serious symptoms of chemical exposure after the disaster.
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