Amtrak Crash in North Carolina Injures More Than 60, Questions Crossing Safety
It’s becoming an all too familiar story – another truck or car stranded on a grade crossing, another serious train accident.
Just weeks after six people were killed when a Metro North train crashed in New York, dozens were injured on Monday when an Amtrak train derailed after hitting a truck on a crossing in North Carolina.
The train crashed into a truck on a crossing in Halifax, NC, and derailed. The News and Observer reported that 62 people including the train’s engineer, were taken to Halifax Regional Medical Center for treatment of injuries that were not considered life-threatening, according to Lt. Jeff Gordon, a Highway Patrol spokesman. The driver of the truck was not injured, Gordon said.
There were 212 passengers and eight crew members aboard the train at the time of the accident, Amtrak stated. Reports from the scene stated the tractor-trailer had picked up a building designed to house industrial electrical systems and equipment, near Clayton, Gordon said. The truck was headed to New Jersey, and North Carolina troopers were reported to be escorting it to the Virginia state line.
The truck and its trooper escort crossed the tracks on N.C. 903 and attempted to make a left turn onto northbound U.S. 301. Reports stated the truck driver was unsuccessful and backed the trailer onto the railroad tracks as the Amtrak train was approaching, Gordon said. The train hit it when it was halfway across the tracks.
“The train ran right through it,” said Patrick Narmi, a 21-year-old N.C. State University student who boarded the Carolinian in Raleigh at 10:25 a.m. en route to Penn Station in New York.
Reports from the scene suggested the tractor trailer was on the tracks for a considerable time before it was hit. ABC News reported on how eyewitnesses saw the truck and trailer occupy the crossing for 15 to 20 minutes, officials stated. North Carolina state highway patrol, which had at least one trooper accompanying the oversized load, said it spent about five minutes trying to negotiate the railroad crossing, ABC reported.
This latest serious railroad crossing crash raises some alarming questions. ABC news reported comments from Steve Ditmeyer, a former Federal Railroad Administration official who now teaches railway management at Michigan State University. The academic observed the crossing on Google Maps and said the curve of the railroad heading toward the intersection “would have made it hard for the engineer to see up ahead, or for the truck driver to see down the track.” Also the tracks don’t cross the road at a 90-degree angle. “This is also known as a bad geometry crossing,” he said.
If a railroad crossing is inadequately designed or visibility is poor, a railroad can be liable for injuries to staff and passengers from a derailment. This crash also raises questions about the role of North Carolina state highway patrol. If an escorted truck was unable to get off a crossing why was the alarm not raised with Amtrak?
Monday’s derailment was the third serious train crash in less than two months. Crashes in New York and California in February left a total of seven people dead and injured 30. The Federal Railroad Administration, which heads up the crash investigation, is continuing to interview witnesses and review onboard recorders from the train in the North Carolina crash.
The driver of a truck that took a wrong turn and stopped on railroad tracks in California in February, triggering a crash on a crossing with a commuter train on Tuesday, faces charges of suspicion of felony hit-and-run, police say.
Questions were also asked about the safety of the railroad crossing that was the scene of the recent fatal train crash in New York. The behavior of the driver of the SUV involved in the crash – who died at the scene – was also questioned in the investigation.
The one thing these three crashes have reinforced is the fact railroad crossings are very dangerous places and a railroad can be liable for injuries and deaths if a crossing is badly designed, lacks safety features or has poor visibility. A truck driver or a trucking company call also be liable in a case where a tractor trailer ends up hitting a train. If you have been injured in a crossing accident, you should contact our experienced North Carolina railroad accident attorneys. Call 757-333-3333 for a free consultation.