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Commuter Rails Systems To Receive Millions to Boost Safety

At least 17 of the top commuter and intercity railroads will receive millions of dollars in funding from the US government to increase rail safety with automatic braking systems that are intended to automatically slow down trains that are in potentially dangerous situations.

The Department of Transportation stated last month that it would issue $197 million in funding after commuter railroads have opposed looming deadlines to implement the safety systems, known as positive train control or PTC.

Congress ordered PTC to be implemented by 2015, but commuter rail systems complained that they lacked the funds to meet the date. The new deadline is now the end of 2018. The new federal funds should help the commuter rail lines to meet the new deadline for PTC, which could reduce the chances of train crashes and derailments. 

Some of the busiest commuter rail lines in the country welcome the funding infusion.

In Florida, the Southern Florida Regional Transportation Authority will get $32 million to install PTC. This is the second-highest tranche of funding for a single commuter rail group. The Tri-Rail commuter line is 72 miles long and runs through the crowded Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties. Also, the Florida Department of Transportation will receive nearly $2 million funding for the Central Florida Rail Corridor.

According to Federal Railroad Administration Executive Director Patrick Warren, the federal funds for PTC installation will help some of the busiest commuter railroads in the country to improve rail safety for millions of train passengers every day.

In recent years, there have been several possibly preventable train crashes in which PTC could have been a lifesaver. In Hoboken, New Jersey in 2016, a commuter train smashed into a major commuter train station, killing a woman and injuring 100 other people. The train was shown to have been moving at double the intended speed. A PTC system could have automatically slowed the train so that it could have entered the terminal normally.

Our View

Research indicates that the implementation of positive train control can lead to a reduction in train-to-train crashes, derailments due to excessive speed, train movements through malfunctioning train switches, and unauthorized entry of trains into work zones.

Our railroad accident personal injury attorneys in Virginia and North Carolina would like to see PTC installed as soon as possible on commuter train lines. There is no doubt that positive train control systems will lead to a reduction in train crashes and derailments that lead to serious injury and death, personal injury lawsuits, and wrongful death lawsuits. 

Long Island Commuter Train Crash Injures 100

A Long Island, New York Rail Road commuter train crashed at the end of a platform on Jan. 4 as it pulled into a station, hurling passengers to the floor and slamming them into one another. 

The front of the slow moving commuter train hit a bumping block as it was pulling into Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn. The train left the tracks and slammed into some railroad work equipment. A rail also pierced the floor of one of the train cars.

Approximately 100 people were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Many had been standing up, waiting to get off the train as it slowed.

Many people were carried out of the train on stretchers. Others sat stunned on the pavement, holding ice bags to their heads and bleeding.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the train crash.

Our View

Our Virginia railroad accident personal injury attorneys studied this Long Island train accident, and will be watching closely for the NTSB’s conclusions on the cause of the crash. This train crash bears similarities to the train crash that happened in Hoboken, New Jersey last year. In that case, the train engineer may have lost consciousness as the train was pulling into a station. That crash killed one and injured dozens of others.  Here, the railroad’s own track maintenance personnel may have been involved in the cause of the terrible crash, time will tell.

In the Long Island commuter train crash, it is possible that the engineer had a medical emergency or was distracted by something as the train pulled into the station. This could have been prevented if the train had been equipped with Positive Train Control (PTC), which would automatically stop a train before it is able to run a red signal orproceed at high speeds into a  dangerous situation, because PTC is capable of automatically slowing a train’s speed. The railroad industry has lobbied to delay federal mandates on installing PTC on train until 2018.  We fully appreciated that these safety improvements will cost substantial monies, but the railroads must be forced to make concrete strides in moving forward with PTC systems.

Anyone who was injured in the Long Island train crash could have injuries that could take months or years to recover from. In that case, filing a personal injury lawsuit could be appropriate. With appropriate legal guidance from a railroad accident attorney, a railroad accident personal injury lawsuit can result in compensation that can be used to help the injured to recover from their injuries, and to compensate them for lost work time.  Our railroad injury law firm lawyers have handled dozens of prior railroad derailments and light rail prior injury cases, throughout the eastern USA and have the knowledge and experience necessary in these type of cases.

New Jersey Transit Approves Funds for Postive Train Control

In the wake of a deadly commuter train crash in a busy Hoboken, New Jersey train station, New Jersey Transit has approved a budget that includes funding for large parts of positive train control (PTC) system, which would include an automatic braking system that could automatically stop a train in an emergency situation.

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New Jersey Transit approved an agreement for leasing radio frequency spectrum, which is an essential part of a PTC system, to cover northern and eastern areas of the railroad in the state. In April, the transit authority worked out a deal to cover the southern, central and western areas.

NJ Transit has until the end of 2018 to fully implement PTC, per the federal deadline for the installation of PTC on all commuter train systems.

When the commuter train in Hoboken crashed, killing one and leaving 100 injured, the NTSB quickly concluded that an automatic braking system may have prevented the disaster. In that crash in late September 2016, the commuter train was rolling into the Hoboken station at a normal 5 MPH, but suddenly increased speed and crashed into the terminal, spraying debris through the waiting crowds of commuters.

It is not yet known why the train sped up; the engineer has no memory of the crash.

When a train derailed in Philidelphia in May 2015, the NTSB also determined quickly that the derailment would have been prevented by PTC.

Our View

Our railroad accident and railroad derailment lawyers are glad that New Jersey Transit is working on installing PTC on its trains and rail lines. PTC could prevent 52 accidents per year, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. The NTSB also claims that if PTC had been in place, it could have prevented 15 train crashes since 2005 that killed 50 people.

Our personal injury attorneys implore the US and state governments to implement Positive Train Control more quickly. We should be keeping up with countries in Europe and Asia that already have versions of PTC in place.

When train derailments occur, the injuries and deaths are devastating to families. And those derailments can lead to huge personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits that can cost the railroad tens of millions of dollars in a jury verdict. PTC is a smart investment.

 

New York Work Train Sideswipes Passenger Train, Injuring 29

A long Island Railroad work train sideswiped a New York passenger train on the evening of Oct. 8, injuring 30. 

While there were no life threatening injuries reported, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano did stated that some of the injuries included broken bones and concussions.

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The passenger train involved in the railroad crash was the train that leaves at 8:22 from Penn Station in New York. The rail accident happened after 9 PM. The crash caused the first three cars of the passenger train to derail.

Mangano said the crash happened near a switch, but is was unclear if a switch malfunction led to the crash and derailment.

Our View

Our railroad injury personal injury attorneys based in Virginia are relieved that there were apparently no life threatening injuries in this train crash. However, there were serious personal  injuries reported and we hope all of the injured passengers recover.

As personal injury lawyers who have won record-setting verdicts in train derailment cases, there are far too many train accidents across America that occur due to lapses in safety. Earlier this month, a serious commuter train crash occurred at a busy station in New Jersey, killing one and injuring more than 100.

Human errors usually have something to do with the cause of serious railroad accidents and train collisions. Nonetheless, the railroads are seeking to downsize train crews on commuter railroad  crews to a single engineer or operator but the leaves no fail safe if that person is distracted, falls asleep, or otherwise fails to act appropriately with regard to safety.
A slightly less effective fail safe is positive train control that will automatically stop a train under certain circumstances but the railroads of course have to delayed implementation and tried to water down implementation to less than 100% of the railroad or commuter lines in the nation. The public need not wonder whether positive train control would have made a difference in many of the major railroad and commuter line accidents and tragedies that happened in the last several years.

In both of the train crashes, it appears that safety issues led to serious accidents.  One important safety feature that could prevent some collisions and derailments is Postive Train Control or PTC. This system is based on GPS technology and would automatically stop a train if a collision were imminent. Railroads lobbied Congress to push back the date to install PTC on all commuter trains until 2018. That’s too bad, because it is possible that these two serious train crashes may have been avoided with better safety techology in place.

 

 

 

 

NJ Train Engineer Has No Memory of the Crash That Killed 1

The engineer who was running the train in Hoboken NJ that smashed into a busy commuter rail terminal, which killed a woman and injured more than 100, told federal investigators this week that he was only going 10 MPH as he approached the station, but has no memory of the crash. 

The statement from the train engineer, Thomas Gallagher, came as federal investigators discovered that a data recorder on the train that was supposed to record speed and braking data did not work. Investigators say there is a second data recorder but it is under a collapsed part of the station’s roof and they cannot get to it.

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Federal rules require that commuter trains have a functioning recorder in the lead car, and the boxes also are supposed to be inspected each year.

Gallagher stated that he was fully rested and the train was functioning normally last Thursday morning before it crashed. The crash took the life of Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, 34, who was standing on the train platform.

The investigation will continue in the coming weeks, and investigators hope they can get to the second data recorder soon.

Months before this deadly New Jersey train crash, federal rail authorities have found dozens of safety violations in safety audits that focused on NJ Transit’s safety and operations.

Our View

From what the engineer is telling investigators, it is possible that he had some type of medical emergency during the crash. Hopefully this will become clearer in the coming weeks.

If he did have a medical emergency in this tragic train crash with death and personal injury, this points to the need more than ever of Positive Train Control (PTC) on all passenger trains as soon as possible. This is a GPS-based safety system that can prevent over speed derailments and train to train collisions.

PTC could prevent many terrible train crashes and derailments, such as this case with serious personal injury in Virginia that we won a verdict for $60 million.

But there’s also another possible simple explanation of the engineer falling asleep and having no recollection of the circumstances. Many safety experts have called for no less than two operators or engineers of not only commuter railroad trains, but on freight trains and passenger trains.

 

 

New Jersey Train Station Crash Kills 1, Injures 100

A New Jersey Transit train crashed and derailed as it arrive into Hoboken Terminal just before 9 am on Thursday morning. The rush hour train crash killed one person and injured more than 100. Images posted on social media showed that the train tore through a wall and severely damaged the station, leaving train debris strewn about and twisted metal columns after the wreck.

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According to witnesses, the train pulled into the station traveling far too fast, overrunning its stopping point. It slammed into a bumper block, went airborne and slammed into a passenger concourse in the terminal. One witness who was in the front car told the media that the train did not appear to slow at all as it came into the station. Another passenger on the train stated that the train did not brake at all when it entered the station.

The woman who died was Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, 34, from Hoboken. She died when she was hit by debris while standing on the platform.

The engineer’s name is Thomas Gallagher, 48, and he was treated and released from a hospital. He is cooperating with investigators on the train accident.

Some federal lawmakers said after the crash that positive train control could have helped avoid this tragedy. The system combines GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor trains and to stop them automatically from crashing, derailing or speeding. New Jersey Transit has not yet installed PTC. The deadline set by Congress to install PTC in all passenger trains has been extended until 2018.

The train’s event recorder has been recovered and NTSB investigators are analyzing its contents.

Our View

Our personal injury attorneys send condolences to the family of the woman who was killed in this tragic Hoboken train derailment and crash. It is too early to speculate about the cause of this train accident, but it is alarming that the train apparently did not slow at all as it entered the train station. Whether the engineer fell asleep, was texting on a cell phone or had a medical emergency, there is little doubt that PTC could have prevented this train accident in Hoboken and could have saved a life and prevented many serious personal injuries.

Positive train control has gotten much attention ever since a 2008 Metrolink train crash in California that killed more than 20 people. President Bush signed a laws that required PTC systems to be installed by the end of 2015, but unfortunately, railroads lobbied to get that deadline extended until 2018.

Other safety experts have pointed out that if the railroads or commuter train companies were required to have two crewmembers in the engine or in the forward car, it would prevent tragedies like this where a single crew member gets distracted or falls asleep.

Our hope is that this train crash will serve as a wake up call for railroads to stop dragging its collective feet and get PTC installed on its trains as soon as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

Oregon Train Derailment Caused by Broken Bolts Missed During Inspection

On June 3, a crude oil train derailed in Mosier, Oregon, spilling thousands of gallons of oil and causing local residents to evacuate.

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The 16 car derailment in Oregon was caused by a set of broken bolts that were missed during a routine inspection by a track inspector with the Oregon Department of Transportation.

ODOT recently concluded that several lag bolts that fastened rail lines to the ties had sheared off and rusted over several years. The inspector simply missed them.

The trains are owned by Union Pacific Railroad and its own inspectors passed over those same bolts several times. 

The accident shows that some simple steps could have prevented the derailment. For example, if the inspectors from Union Pacific or from the state government had walked the stretch of track rather than just driven over it in a truck, the accident could have been prevented.

The unseen bolts have exposed what some experts say is a major flaw in national railroad inspections. Federal requirements give the railroad leeway as far as how they inspect the track and government checks are rare.

The Federal Railroad Administration blames Union Pacific for the accident and is considering enforcement action against the company. The FRA stated that broken lag bolts can be spotted by inspectors if they walk the tracks instead of drive. Regulators add that walking the curved sections of track is an especially good idea but Union Pacific does not do so.

The FRA stated after this accident that it expects railroads to go beyond its minimum inspection requirements to ensure track safety.

The railroad industry states that 99% of hazardous material shipments arrive safely, but there have been two dozen crude oil spills by rail on the last few years in North America. Most of them were caused by back track, which highlights the need for safety inspections to be stepped up.

Our View

Our train accident attorneys in Virginia are glad no one was hurt in this oil train derailment. We are very familiar with how railroads will sometimes cut corners to increase profits. We wish that railroads would do a better job with inspecting tracks so that there are fewer serious train derailments.

While inspections cost money, train derailments cost more, and lead to serious injuries and death. We won a $60 million jury verdict in Manassas VA where a train derailed and crashed into a gas station, causing serious brain injuries for a worker there. We eventually proved that Norfolk Southern was responsible for the accident.

 

 

 

3 Railroad Employees Missing After Head-On Crash in Texas

Two BNSF freight trains slammed into each other on the same track outside of Amarillo TX, with at least one railroad worker injured and three missing. 

According to a spokesman for the Carson County TX sheriff’s office, the chances of finding the missing crew members alive is low.

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The two train crash happened at 8:25 central time on Tuesday near Amarillo. The trains were carrying consumer goods and the wreck happened on the main line, which is called the Southern Transcon that connects Los Angeles with Chicago.

Experts say that while the investigation is in the early stages, it appeared that this type of accident could have been prevented if positive train control technology had been used. Railroads got an extension last year on implementing PTC until 2018, after most railroad were unable to meet a 2015 deadline. The system is designed to stop trains automatically when they are in an incorrect position or do not observe traffic signals.

BNSF stated that it intends to install PTC on the section of track where the accident happened.

Our View

Our hearts go out to the families of the injured and missing men in this train accident. As railroad accident attorneys, we know that many railroads have been delaying the implementation of PTC to save money. As I once wrote, this is an absurd argument when you consider the costs of upgrading safety equipment compared to the costs associated with the type of train crash above.

It is estimated that 20 year installation, testing and maintenance costs for PTC would be as much as $24 billion. That is a great deal of money, but the above wreck is going to cost BNSF millions and millions of dollars in property damages and government fines. Also, there will almost certainly be very expensive wrongful death lawsuits for the men who are missing and presumed dead.

Our railroad accident attorneys think that railroads should put PTC systems into their trains and infrastructure as soon as possible, even if profits are reduced for a few years. Such actions would help railroads to avoid massive lawsuits that can cost them millions of dollars. 

2015 Philadelphia Train Crash Caused by Distracted Engineer

The Amtrak engineer that ran a train off the rails outside Philadelphia in May 2015, which killed eight people, was most likely distracted by several radio dispatches, according to a source close to the federal investigation.

The engineer who was running Amtrak 188 informed federal investigators that he hardly could recall the moments before the late night crash. He added that he had a vague, dream like memory of the train going too fast around the curve and he hit the brakes at the train tipped over.

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Federal investigators found that in the minutes before the deadly crash, there were radio reports that another engineer’s windshield on another train had been hit by something, possibly a bullet. Investigators think that the engineer on Amtrak 188 was distracted by that radio dispatch, as well as a rock that hit his windshield at about the same time.

In addition to the eight who died, more than 200 were injured. Dozens of personal injury lawsuits have been filed so far, and Amtrak is not denying liability for the accident.

Our Virginia railroad crash attorneys hope that lessons are learned from this tragic train crash in Philadelphia. One of the things that could prevent future incidents is Positive Train Control, which would automatically slow down a speeding train that is entering a curve too fast. Of course, many railroads have opposed federal deadlines mandating the installation of Positive Train Control on all passenger trains.

One of our attorneys, Randy Appleton, recently wrote how absurd it is that railroads do not want to spend money on PTC, given the massive liability costs in a major train derailment. Hopefully, all railroads will install PTC in the near future and these types of tragic and fatal train crashes will be a memory.

 

 

Amtrak Derailment Kills Two in Philadelphia

Two people died today and 35 injured in an Amtrak train derailment near Philadelphia, when the train slammed into a backhoe that was on the tracks. The train derailed, with seven crew members and 341 passengers on board.

The train was traveling from New York City to Savannah, GA when the lead engine derailed in Chester PA at 8 AM on April 3.

Two men were on or near the backhoe when the train hit it and died at the scene. Both men were Amtrak employees.

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Passengers on the Amtrak derailed train stated that the crash between the train and backhoe caused a large fireball and smoke.

Investigators stated that it was not clear when the backhoe was on the tracks, but Federal Railroad Administration officials were on the scene and were studying the crash.

It is a shame that this entirely preventable train derailment led to loss of life and injuries. While we do not yet know what led to the tragedy, it is most alarming that the employees on the backhoe were Amtrak workers. Amtrak should be much better at communicating between oncoming trains and other company employees. How is it possible that the workers did not know that an Amtrak train was scheduled to come through that section of track at that time?

Amtrak will face multiple liability issues in this train derailment, both for the injuries to passengers and the deaths of these two workers. An experienced and tough railroad accident attorney will be able to ensure that the injured parties’ rights and those of the families of the deceased are properly represented and protected in upcoming litigation in this matter.