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Did Red Cross Food Make Responders Sick At Train Wreck Site?

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Smoke rises from the scene of a train derailment and fire near Westville, Ind. Friday afternoon. (CBS)

Smoke rises from the scene of a train derailment and fire near Westville, Ind. Friday afternoon. (CBS)

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JACKSON TOWNSHIP, Ind. (CBS) — The health department in Porter County, Ind., is investigating whether food provided by the Red Cross at a train collision scene made first responders sick.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports, when disaster strikes, the American Red Cross responds along with emergency workers, providing them food, coffee and water from their canteens.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports

That was the case during the three-train wreck just east of Valparaiso this past Friday afternoon, and an unknown number of police officers and firefighters who were on at the scene at the time later became violently ill. They began vomiting and suffering diarrhea.

Thick smoke from the resulting fires prompted an evacuation. But authorities have ruled out chemicals from the diesel fuel and ethanol as the cause of the first responders’ illnesses.

Officials believe the Red Cross food, in fact, is to blame.

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.

The crash happened around 1:20 p.m. Friday on County Road 500 East and 600 north in Liberty Township, on the CSX rail line that runs from Chicago to New York. The first train stopped for an emergency, and a second train slowed but still hit the first train. A third train then plowed into the first two, its operators apparently unaware of crash.

A lingering fire was caused by diesel fuel from the engines.

The Northwest Indiana Post-Tribune contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.

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