Federal authorities have arrested a 43-year-old Cleveland man, Joseph Findley, on charges of terrorism following a series of dangerous acts that nearly led to a catastrophic train derailment. The arrest comes after months of investigation and has raised questions about domestic terrorism and the vulnerabilities of the nation’s critical infrastructure.
Joseph Findley was arrested on October 6, following a string of incidents where he allegedly placed railroad spikes and wedged pieces of metal into rail switches on the Ohio line.
The FBI began their investigation in August, after CSX train employees discovered metal materials jammed into the tracks and rail switches. Surveillance footage captured a bald man, later identified as Findley, placing items on the tracks multiple times between August and October 1.
During a test run for a CSX employee appreciation day, a train hit an obstruction on the track, temporarily derailing before the wheels dropped back into place. This near-catastrophic event prompted an immediate investigation, which led to Findley’s arrest. Officials believe that the methods used to place the materials on the tracks match those taught by international terrorist groups for creating homemade derail devices.
The FBI’s investigation initially faced challenges due to the positioning of surveillance cameras at Dominion Energy, which were not aimed at the nearby railroad tracks. Once the company agreed to reposition the cameras, multiple images of Findley placing items on the tracks were captured. A search warrant was executed on Findley’s house, leading to his arrest on the same day.
Joseph Findley is currently being held without bond and is awaiting his hearing in the U.S. District Court next week. He has been charged with terrorist attacks against railroad carriers. While no other trains have suffered severe damage, it is not yet known how far along the tracks Findley placed the jamming metal pieces. A thorough search has not yet been ordered, according to Daily Mail.
On February 3, 2023, a Norfolk Southern freight train hauling carcinogenic chemicals derailed in the small town of East Palestine, Ohio, sending plumes of dangerous gas into the atmosphere during a “controlled release” burn. The main chemical mentioned in reports, vinyl chloride, is used to make PVC. Exposure to vinyl chloride is known to cause certain cancers, according to Cancer.gov.
Purdue scientists and students studied over 300 samples in and around East Palestine, Ohio, in March. In February state and federal officials decided to blow up six railcars of toxic chemicals in the town after a train derailment. This resulted in a toxic chemical mushroom cloud over the region.
According to Attorneys Foley and Small, in 2022 alone, the U.S. experienced an alarming 1,164 train derailments.
The safety risks and hazards faced by railroad workers were brought to the forefront in 2021, with a total of 5,781 reported railroad injuries and illnesses. Shockingly, over 3,000 of these incidents occurred while employees were on duty, underscoring the need for enhanced safety protocols.
The devastating consequences of train derailments were evident in 2021, with 893 reported deaths resulting from railway incidents. Tragically, 11 of these fatalities were railroad employees, emphasizing the importance of protecting both passengers and workers through rigorous safety measures.
Mira Safety created an interactive map that displays all reported train derailments that have occurred within the mainland United States so far in 2023.