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Train crash responders sickened, likely from food they were served

Three westbound CSX trains crashed Friday afternocausing massive fire damage passenger cars areCounty Roads 600N 500E rural JacksTownship Indiana. |

Three westbound CSX trains crashed Friday afternoon, causing a massive fire and damage to passenger cars in the area of County Roads 600N and 500E in rural in Jackson Township in Indiana. | Courtesy NBC5

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Updated: February 12, 2012 8:17AM

Numerous emergency workers who responded to a three-train crash in Northwest Indiana Friday became violently ill over the weekend, and authorities said it might have been the food served to them — and not the chemicals spilled in the crash — that sickened them.

The crash caused chemicals including ethanol and diesel fuel to spill, and the diesel fed fires that sent up enough smoke for emergency personnel to evacuate an area one mile to the north and east of the crash site, northeast of Valparaiso.

Porter County Health Department director of nursing Connie Rudd confirmed the department is investigating complaints of emergency workers getting sick.

“It does not appear to be anything that came from the train,” she said.

Sgt. Larry Laflower, who was spokesman for the Porter County sheriff’s department at the crash site, was one of the people who got sick.

He said he knew of many police officers and firefighters who had the same symptoms through Monday, and believes the common denominator was a meal the Red Cross served them as they responded to the wreck.

Angie Fox, volunteer manager of the Porter County Red Cross, referred questions to the health department.

Health Department administrator Keith Letta was noncommittal about the cause, noting he is aware of probably 20 people who became ill among more than 300 who were at the crash site.

Rudd said the department began investigating chemicals or food poisoning as possible causes when it started receiving complaints Monday. So far, chemicals appear to have been ruled out as the cause of the vomiting and diarrhea.

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