As residents near the Ohio train derailment begin to file lawsuits, some report lingering coughs or chest pain

Since returning to work following the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous chemicals, Rick Feezle said he has had a raspy voice and chest pain.

His wife has experienced sore throats and headaches, he said.

Feezle, 63, said he has worked in the area around East Palestine, Ohio, all of his adult life and operates two businesses there: a salvage yard and an auto shop.

He’s part of a group of people who live or work near the derailment site who have filed a class action suit against Norfolk Southern. The Feb. 3 incident resulted in a fire and chemical spill, forcing residents within a roughly 1-mile radius to evacuate. Several days later, the rail company released and burned vinyl chloride — a flammable gas — a move official said would alleviate the risk of an explosion.

Authorities said residents could return home two days after that.

“Nobody can tell us what we should do other than ‘It’s safe, go head on back in there,'” Feezle said, his voice crackly. “And the fish are dying and animals are dying and I can hardly talk and my chest hurts.”

His lawsuit is one of at least six class action suits already filed against Norfolk Southern since the accident. For the most part, those suing the company alleging that they’ve lost income due to evacuations were exposed to cancer-causing chemicals, and no longer feel safe in their homes.

Norfolk Southern said it was “unable to comment directly on litigation.” But in a public update on Thursday, the company noted that in addition to its ongoing cleanup work, it was distributing more than $2 million in financial assistance to affected families and businesses to help with the costs of the evacuation, as well as creating a $1 million fund for the community.

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