Fact Check

Striking Photo of Ohio Train Derailment Posted to Reddit

We were able to verify that the aerial picture was shot from above the train derailment that occurred in East Palestine, Ohio, in February 2023.

Published Feb. 13, 2023

The Reddit logo is pictured along with other mobile apps. (Photo by Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images) (Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images)
The Reddit logo is pictured along with other mobile apps. (Photo by Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images)
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An aerial picture of burnt train cars in wet mud shows the aftermath of the February 2023 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

On Feb. 13, 2023, a photograph was posted in Reddit's r/pics subreddit that allegedly showed the aftermath of the fiery train derailment disaster in East Palestine, Ohio.

We often see photos of unrelated incidents being shared when new disasters strike. For example, in the days before we published this fact check, we reported about how misleading pictures were being shared following the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria. For example, one of the more popular photos to be shared after the quake showed a dog next to what appeared to be a child's hand — however, that picture was shot years before the disaster occurred.

In the case of the Ohio train derailment photo that was posted to Reddit, we soon found that this claim was true.

The derailment occurred on Feb. 3. The train was carrying around 150 cars, about 50 of which ran off the tracks. Several of the cars were carrying hazardous materials.

"Vinyl chloride was later released into the air from five of those cars before crews ignited it to get rid of the highly flammable, toxic chemicals in a controlled environment, creating a dark plume of smoke," The Associated Press reported.

The New York Times published that the incident had "sparked concerns about air, soil and water pollution," all of which were still reportedly under assessment as of Feb. 13.

As for the Reddit post, the thread showed the caption, "Ohio, East Palestine right now."

At the time we published this story, the post was already nearing 80,000 points. For any readers who are unfamiliar with Reddit, the website's threads work on a system where users can upvote and downvote content. A count of nearly 80,000 points meant that the post with the Ohio train derailment photo was one of the most popular threads of the day.

According to a search of pictures from the AP Images website, an extremely similar photo appeared to have been shot on Feb. 8. It was credited to mpi34 via MediaPunch.

This picture on the MediaPunch website appeared to have been shot within a similar timeframe of the photo that was posted to Reddit.

The close match of the two pictures meant that the photo posted to Reddit was taken in Ohio and did not come from a past train disaster.

A subsequent look at the derailment site can be found in a YouTube video that also was shot from a drone. The footage was captured four days after the photo that was posted on Reddit. In the clip, the puddles of wet mud appeared to have mostly dried up.

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"50-Car Train Derailment Causes Big Fire, Evacuations in Ohio." The Associated Press, 4 Feb. 2023, https://apnews.com/article/pennsylvania-ohio-evacuations-fires-5d399dc745f51ef746e22828083d8591.

Floatography. "East Palestine, OH Disaster Scene 9 Days Later | 02/12/2023 Drone Footage of Train Derailment." YouTube, 12 Feb. 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3xI2W7P2Ro.

Hauser, Christine. "What We Know About the Train Derailment in Ohio." The New York Times, 13 Feb. 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/article/ohio-train-derailment.html.

mpi34/MediaPunch/IPx. "Residents Cleared To Return Home After Train Derailment." AP Images, 8 Feb. 2023, https://www.apimages.com/metadata/Index/Residents-Cleared-To-Return-Home-After-Train-De-/c947ff0d55fd45cc8d59d666fab85764/65/0.

"Residents Cleared To Return Home After Train Derailment." MediaPunch, 8 Feb. 2023, https://mediapunch.photoshelter.com/image/I0000fjwA.vXMrMA.

"Train Derailment Prompts Water Utility to Take Precautions." The Associated Press, 13 Feb. 2023, https://apnews.com/article/evacuations-west-virginia-pennsylvania-ohio-b7943bd49fd11e62d45b28b77393e261.

Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.