In a recent press release, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made a finding regarding the probable cause of the March 7, 2017 railroad crossing accident in Biloxi, Mississippi (Failure of Railroad, City, to Address Grade Crossing Hazards is Probable Cause of Fatal Mississippi Crash). The report found that CSX Transportation and the city of Biloxi failed to mitigate known safety hazards at the grade crossing where the accident occurred.
A chartered ECHO Transportation passenger bus was transporting 49 senior citizens to a Biloxi casino when it became grounded on a “high profile” grade crossing. The engineer of the approaching CSX freight applied emergency braking, but the train crashed into the motor coach at 19 mph, killing four and injuring 37.
The Biloxi grade crossing was reconstructed in 1977, but dates back to at least 1870. The crossing has an unusually high vertical profile, which makes vehicles with low ground clearance, such as buses and trucks, more susceptible to being grounded on the tracks.
Since maintenance work that made the vertical profile even higher several years ago, there have been at least 23 vehicle groundings at the railroad crossing site. Both CSX Transportation and the City of Biloxi knew about the alarming number of dangerous incidents, but neither made any effort to reduce the risk of a tragic accident.
“This tragedy was preceded by numerous unheeded warnings in the three years leading up to it,” NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt said. “They came in the form of known groundings of other vehicles at the very same grade crossing where the fatal crash occurred. Warnings call for action.”
The NTSB recommended the development of standards for determining when a high-profile grade crossing should be altered or shut down, and asked for increased communication between all the parties involved in maintaining railroad crossing safety. “It will take concerted, coordinated action to proactively address the safety challenge posed by high-profile grade crossings,” Sumwalt said. “And today’s findings and recommendations will provide regulators, policy makers and planners with the tools to do just that.”
It is imperative for the NTSB to continue to hold the railroads responsible for these preventable tragedies because the industry has proven throughout its history that it will do nothing to increase safety unless required by law. If you have been injured in a railroad accident, it is vital that you hire an experienced attorney. Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.