Pete Buttigieg inspects East Palestine train derailment wreckage | USA TODAY

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg toured the East Palestine train wreckage where 11 cars carrying hazardous chemicals leaked.

RELATED: Ohio train derailment prompts 'major explosion' warning

The crew of a Norfolk Southern train that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, became aware of an overheated axle just moments before the wreck and tried to stop the train, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday.

The board released initial findings from its investigation three weeks after a freight train carrying hazardous materials derailed and spilled chemicals into the air, water and soil. Five of the derailed cars contained vinyl chloride, which Norfolk Southern officials discharged through a controlled release to prevent an explosion.

Residents and local leaders are worried about the longtime health consequences of the train crash, fire and spill. But experts and national authorities largely minimized the health concerns, essentially saying the derailment and toxic spill on Feb. 3 isn't a full-scale environmental disaster such as Love Canal or the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“I can tell you this much: This was 100% preventable," NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy said during a news conference Thursday.

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  1. Pete: “What’s that smell?”
    First Responder: “ Embarrassment.”
    First Responder: “You didn’t miss your maternity leave, but it took you 3 weeks to find Ohio.”
    Pete: “It wasn’t safe.”
    First Responder:”We could’ve stayed home too, but we’d get fired.”

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