Fatal Train Accident at Missouri Passive Crossing

An Amtrak train recently derailed after colliding with a dump truck at a railroad crossing near Mendon, Missouri, killing four people and injuring more than 150 (Unheeded recommendations might have prevented deadly Amtrak crash: NTSB). The train, consisting of two locomotives, six coach cars, a cafe car, and a baggage car, was traveling 87 miles per hour when it crashed into the rear of a truck carrying crushed rock for an Army Corps of Engineers project.

According to National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Jennifer Homendy, the accident happened at a “passive crossing,” that was protected only by a stop sign. The crossing was on a list developed by NTSB that identified passive crossings that needed upgrading to “active crossings,” which are controlled by crossing bars, flashing warning lights, or bells.

After nearly being hit by a train at the same crossing, local farmer Mike Spencer had also warned local officials about the dangers at the crossing, which has a steep six-foot incline, making it difficult to see approaching trains. “I was afraid this was going to happen to somebody that was not really familiar with the crossing and how to approach it,” Spencer said. “It’s just a nightmare. I look at this and I just can’t believe it.”

“Anytime our recommendations aren’t heeded, of course, I’m upset because we see tragedy after tragedy after tragedy and numerous fatalities and injuries,” Homendy said. “It’s very frustrating for our investigators, very frustrating, when they are on scene and they know what would have prevented this.”

There are approximately 3,500 passive railroad crossings in Missouri, about half of the state’s crossings, and over 130,000 passive railroad crossings across the country. So why has nothing been done to protect drivers at all these passive crossings? The answer, as always, is money. According to Homendy, the funds to upgrade the crossing would need to be provided by Chariton County, the state of Missouri, and the BNSF Railway Co., which owns and operates the track. Despite making many millions of dollars from its railroad operations throughout the state, BNSF will not make its train crossings safe unless the majority of the cost is borne by local and state governments.

It is long past time to hold the railroads responsible for the damages they cause by prioritizing profits over human lives. If you have been injured in a railroad crossing accident, it is crucial that you hire an experienced personal injury attorney. Please call Davis, Bethune & Jones today at 1- 800-875-5972 for a free consultation.

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