HERNDON — No one disputes that drifter Nicholas R. Brooks was severely burned early last week while illegally riding a train, but the likelihood the public will learn what caused his injuries is slim.
Despite the lack of answers, Paul Froutz, Northumberland County Public Safety director, said he’s certain there’s no public safety concern.
“From our perspective, there was no spread of a contaminate, no chemical was found in the area and we took care of the situation,” he said, referring to Monday’s hazardous-materials team response in Herndon.
Noting that state police at Stonington and Norfolk Southern Corp. railroad police have closed the investigation into Brooks’ claim that he was burned by a substance that spilled in a train he was riding, a Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency spokesman said her organization isn’t looking for answers either.
“PEMA has no authority, and once the incident is closed by local law enforcement and the railroad, we can’t do anything,” deputy press secretary Ruth Miller said Friday.
The state agency was notified that a Northumberland County HAZMAT responded to the incident early Monday, but that was the extent of PEMA’s involvement, she said.
It was about 8:30 a.m. Monday when Brooks, a 27-year-old drifter, appeared in the small borough of Herndon seeking help for burns he said he suffered while on a train he traveled from Philadelphia.
Dalmatia Ambulance emergency medical technician Eric Shrawder said Brooks told him that he had fallen asleep on the train and awoke with burns on his stomach and a yellow substance leaking from a barrel.
Shrawder said Brooks had several blisters on his stomach and when he began treating the young man, he was overcome by the odor and struggled to breath.
A Northumberland County HAZMAT team was summoned and decontaminated Brooks and Shrawder at the scene before both were taken to hospital.
Shrawder was treated and released and Brooks spent a few days at Lehigh Valley Medical Center’s burn unit in Allentown before he was released Wednesday.
The state Department of Environmental Protection tested a blanket and clothing worn by the two men, but the substance that caused their injuries could not be detected.
The state police found nothing to discredit Brooks’ claims and, despite his history of traveling illegally on trains, Norfolk Southern officials denied there’s any evidence he was on a train when he was injured.