Fill Failure Caused Virginia CSX Derailment
Numerous crashes in recent years raise questions about America’s rail infrastructure. A new report blames the collapse of material under some train tracks on a Virginia CSX derailment. However, this is not the only time a derailment has caused the destruction of a bridge. The National Transportation Safety Board recently published a report that describes freight train crash on May 19, 2018. The CSX train derailed as it approached a bridge overpass in Alexandria, causing it to collapse. The report pointed out the CSX bridge supporting the main track was extensively damaged and collapsed at an abutment wall.
The NTSB determined a subgrade fill failure of the track displaced ballast and caused the derailment and bridge collapse. The failure sent the bridge structure and eight of the 31 derailed cars onto a track below it, the report stated. Subgrade is a natural material, usually gravel or rock used in fills under the sub-ballast that supports the track.
What Happened During the Derailment?
The derailment caused no injuries. Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the NTSB, told the Washington Post the train derailed at about 7 a.m. in the 4300 block of Wheeler Avenue, Alexandria. Some of the derailed cars damaged part of the overpass. None of the derailed cars appeared to carry any hazardous materials, according to the authorities. Derailed cars fell onto tracks owned by Norfolk Southern Railway.
Inspectors suspected a maintenance problem from the outset. Sumwalt pointed out some of the ballast gravel that supports the tracks had slid from its normal position. He said authorities would look at whether this resulted from bad weather, or from a maintenance issue. The three-locomotive train included 167 cars; 91 were loaded and 76 were empty, the inspectorate stated.
The NTSB report into the CSX derailment stated the crash cost CSX about $6.4 million. Light rain was falling at the time of the derailment. The authorities issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the northern Virginia city until about 4 hours before the time of the incident. The report noted about 5.5 inches of rain fell in the area during the 10-day period before the derailment. The report concluded the likely cause of the derailment was a “subgrade fill failure of the track structure that displaced a large area of ballast under the low rail of the track … resulting in a cross-level deviation of the track significant enough to allow a wheel climb derailment.”
This Virginia CSX crash raises alarming questions about the maintenance of America’s railroads. Derailments are the leading cause of railroad crashes. Broken rails, ties or issues with fill and ballast cause many derailments every year. These accidents can cause serious injuries to crew members or passengers.
Investigators blamed a broken rail on a derailment in Suffolk in 2018. The derailment of a locomotive and eight cars damaged some backyards but caused no injuries. The derailment occurred on tracks owned by Commonwealth Railway, Inc., on a short line that runs from Suffolk to the West Norfolk area of Portsmouth. Investigators found a cracked rail at the scene.
How Do Maintenance Failures Cause Railroad Accidents?
Our attorneys represent crew members who end up injured on America’s railroads. Derailments are the most common accidents that occur on the railroad and may result in serious injuries and deaths. From 2001 to 2010, 54,889 of the 58,299 train accidents reported in the United States were train derailments, representing 94 percent. As the country’s rail infrastructure gets older, we fear defects may cause more and more derailments.
The Federal Railroad Administration states broken rails and welds are the leading cause of derailments followed by issues in track geometry and the failure of bearings. They were a factor in about 15 percent of all derailments.
The Los Angeles Times linked damaged rails to serious accidents involving fuel spills. It pointed out the ongoing pounding of the tracks from heavy trains can widen them and lead to derailments. Freight tracks in the U.S. should be 56.5 inches apart. A mere three inches of movement can cause a train to leave the tracks. The report said even if tracks conform to federal standards, they can still separate under the force of a heavy freight train.
Alarmingly, inspectors are often failing to pick up on defects. A report into a derailment in Pittsburg in 2018 found tracks were inspected just weeks before a massive derailment at Station Square. The inspectors missed a major defect.
The crash put lives at risk and caused almost $2 million in damages. Repairs to the Port Authority T rails took weeks. Commuters standing below the train ran for their lives as it left the rails.
Contact our Railroad Accident Attorneys in Virginia
The Virginia CSX derailment highlights how defects with ballast and fill as well as broken tracks can cause serious accidents. Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers attorney John Cooper has represented railroad workers who ended up hurt on the job across the United States as well as passengers who were injured in derailments. He has represented the families of deceased workers. Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers has fought CSX, Amtrak, Norfolk Southern, and other big railroads. Please call our Virginia railroad accident team for help on your case.