Positive Train Control Questions Follow Washington State Amtrak Crash

America’s railroads are adopting new technology intended to prevent crashes. However, it was not used in Washington State where an Amtrak train crashed in December, killing three and injuring more than 100. Positive Train Control questions were asked in the wake of the latest serious rail crash.

As well as passengers who were killed and injured, all the crew members were hospitalized, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) set up interviews with them to get more details on the derailment of Amtrak Cascades 501 near DuPont, Washington.

The train was on its inaugural journey from Seattle to Portland, Oregon.

Positive Train Control is meant to prevent crashes of this nature but it was not activated on the train. Positive train control, or PTC, has the ability to automatically slow down and stop a train if it’s going too fast or could get into an accident. The Federal Railroad Administration hailed it as the “single-most important rail safety development in more than a century.”

PTC has been dogged by delays and cost overruns but America’s railroads are increasingly fitting it.

However, the Amtrak train in Washington State was traveling 80 mph in a 30-mph zone, National Transportation Safety Board member Bella Dinh-Zarr said.

The NTSB report estimates total damage from the crash at $40.4 million.

Positive Train Control Questions Are Raised in Lawsuits

Lawsuits have already been filed after December’s crash. Two people who were on the train and another who was hurt in a vehicle on the highway below the derailed train all filed suits.

The NTSB said signs alerting crews to the speed reductions were placed two miles before the curve and at the start of the curve. The NTSB’s report could not comprehend why Amtrak 501 entered a curve at nearly three times the posted speed limit.

The full federal investigation into the latest Amtrak crash will take months. The preliminary NTSB report released confirmed the train was traveling nearly 50 miles an hour over the posted speed limit.

One of the lawsuits states Amtrak equipped the train with PTC. It questions why the train was equipped with the technology but Positive Train Control was not operable.

The train’s conductor has sued in Pierce County Superior Court. He alleges Amtrak failed to provide a safe work environment. A new deadline set by the Federal Railroad Administration requires the implementation of PTC by December 31, 2018.

The crash has raised questions about the adequacy of training for engineers and conductors on the route in Washington.

A report on CNN noted there are numerous unanswered questions after the Amtrak crash.

Positive Train Control Questions were never far from the thoughts of Washington State Governor Jay Inslee. He said:

“There are a thousand unanswered questions about this right now. One of the questions is, could that speed control have made a difference? We don’t know that for sure at the moment either.”

If you have been injured on the railroads or lost a loved one, call our railroad accident attorneys at (757) 455-0077.

John Cooper

CSX Train Carrying Molten Sulfur Derailed in Florida

America’s railroads carry hazardous materials across the country. If you think these shipments are safe, think again. During the most recent accident residents were warned to stay indoors and close their windows after a CSX train carrying molten sulfur derailed.

A report on NPR noted four cars derailed near Lakeland in Florida. Officials were warned to remain in their homes.

The report stated several cars leaked. This is an extremely hazardous substance. Burning sulfur emits large quantities of sulfur dioxide, an irritating, toxic, and suffocating gas linked to severe lung damage and death.

CSX Spokesman Rob Doolittle said molten sulfur as “a hazardous material used in making rubber, detergent, and fertilizers.”

CSX reported nine rail cars were reported derailed in this crash. Polk County Fire Rescue reported on how several cars were left “rolled over and mangled.”

CSX train carrying molten sulfur derailed
A CSX train carrying molten sulfur derailed

The railroad operator reported no injuries. It is investigating the cause of the derailment.

A fire engine crew spotted the derailed cars discovered shortly before 2 a.m on Nov. 27. The engine was on the way back from a medical call. Hazmat crews were mobilized to the derailment scene. They were reported to be working with officials from CSX and state agencies to investigate.

NPR reported this derailment occurred close to a residential subdivision along Kathleen Road. The train track runs parallel to the highway. Part of the road was closed after the crash.

No residents were evacuated due to the derailment and sulfur leak, according to officials. They were told to shelter in their homes. Officials instructed them to turn off their air conditioning units.

CSX Train Carrying Molten Sulfur Derailed – The Hazards of Chemical Trains

As well as communities living close to railroad lines, workers face daily risks to their health from dangerous chemicals carried on the railroads.

Earlier this year, we noted a series of cancer lawsuits were filed by railroad workers who fell sick across the country and the families of those who lost loved ones.

We also noted how chlorine accidents pose a major danger to railroad workers after a series of spills across the United States.

Tank cars used by the railroads still rupture too easily, endangering communities, first responders and railroad workers alike.

If you fear your health has been affected by dangerous chemicals or other substances, you have likely grounds to make a claim under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). Call us today for a free consultation at (866) 455-6657.

John Cooper

Norfolk Southern Derailment Leads to Suffolk Coal Spill

A Norfolk Southern derailment in Suffolk over the weekend highlights the dangers railroad workers face on a daily basis.

The 42-car train derailment occurred on Saturday morning. It led to prolonged road closures. Reports stated nobody was hurt.

The Daily Press reported the Norfolk Southern coal train was traveling east on Saturday morning when 42 coal cars derailed. The derailment caused damage to a warehouse and the windows of a nearby home and vehicle.

The report stated Wellons Street and Saratoga Street at Hall Avenue in Suffolk remain closed on Monday. Crews worked to clear more than 40 cars, the City of Suffolk stated in a news release.

Officials have not made an official statement on the cause of the derailment.

Norfolk Southern derailments

There were dramatic scenes in downtown Suffolk after the Norfolk-Southern derailment. However, the incident could have been so much worse.

Tommy Vaughan, who lives close to the scene of the derailment, said it sounded like a tornado was approaching. He told the Daily Press.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen something like this – I’m glad it didn’t come through the house.”

The Norfolk Southern derailment resulted in a major clean-up operation in downtown Suffolk.

Norfolk Southern Derailment in Pennsylvania

Derailments involving Norfolk Southern trains and other operators are not as rare as we may think.

In December, a Norfolk Southern train derailed in Marysville, PA.

Norfolk Southern suggested the wind may have played a part in the early morning incident.

A westbound train was coming from Harrisburg when four rear cars derailed as it crossed the Rockvale Bridge.

The derailed train cars knocked over a handrail while loose stones from the tracks spilled onto a roadway underneath the Marysville ‘subway’ tunnel. However, the cars did not fall off the bridge. Nobody was injured in this derailment.

Derailments pose dangers to local residents as well as railroad workers. This is particularly the case when trains carrying hazardous substances derail.

In March 2016, a Norfolk Southern train derailed in Erie in New York. Dozens of homes in the area were evacuated due to an ethanol spill from the crash.

More than a decade ago, a Norfolk Southern derailment in Graniteville, SC, killed nine people and left many more seriously ill.

It serves as a sobering reminder of the dangerous materials many trains are carrying and the inherent risks to railroad workers and those living in nearby communities. The big railroads like Norfolk Southern and CSX are seeing an alarming number of derailments including in Virginia cities like Suffolk and Lynchburg. These communities have been lucky in that the derailments apparently caused no injuries or deaths. However, the incidents highlight the vulnerability of workers and those living near the tracks.

If you have been injured in a railroad accident, please call me for a free consultation at (866) 455-6657.

John Cooper

Chlorine Accidents Pose a Major Threat to Railroad Workers

Chlorine accidents are one of the biggest concerns workers face on America’s railroads. The chemical is also taking a significant human toll in other industries.

An article in Scientific American recalled a recent accident at Tulare Iron and Metal Inc., a recycling facility in California where 23 people were hospitalized after a chlorine leak in 2010. Some of the workers were kept in hospital for as long as 10 days and were on life support. They continue to fight the ill effects of chlorine poisoning.

The article pulls no punches about the seriousness of chlorine spills. Over the last decade, it has been involved in hundreds of accidents across the United States, injuring thousands and claiming lives.

Chlorine accidents pose a grave threat to railroad workers

When it comes to deadly chemicals, chlorine is second only to carbon monoxide in terms of the number of injuries and deaths it causes.

Railroad workers have many reasons to be wary of chlorine. It’s transported in tank cars that have known weaknesses and are prone to rupture during derailments.

Graniteville Spill was Among Most Serious Chlorine Accidents

The worst chlorine gas incident in the history of the United States occurred in Graniteville, SC in 2005. The derailment of 18 freight cars led to the release of 120,000 pounds of the gas in the railroad town. The results were grim. Nine people lost their lives and at least 1,400 people were exposed to the noxious gas.

More than 500 people were treated in local hospitals. Some reported serious lung issues. Even today, some people are struggling because of the effects of the Graniteville chlorine leak.

The derailment of the Norfolk Southern train in Graniteville left a long-lasting legacy of pain. I helped some of the victims in the months after this terrible accident.

Chlorine accidents are normally unexpected. Unlike carbon monoxide, chlorine gas is visible. It gives off a yellow-greenish cloud.

Some useful information about chlorine accidents is provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you work on the railroad, you face potential exposure to numerous dangerous materials including coal dust, asbestos, and inflammable materials. If your health has been impacted by dangerous chemicals or other substances, you have likely grounds to make a claim under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). Call us today for a free consultation at (866) 455-6657.

John Cooper

Three Railroad Workers Were Killed when BNSF trains collided in Texas

When trains derail railroad workers are on the front line. Tragically, three railroad employees lost their lives in a recent crash in Texas when BNSF trains collided.

Four BNSF employees were involved in the fiery crash between two trains near Panhandle in Texas in late June, ABC News reported. It was the latest in a series of wrecks that has claimed the lives of railroad workers across the United States.

Later Houston Public Media reported that one of the trains had failed to heed a stop signal before the BNSF trains collided.

Two BNSF trains collided in Texas, killing three workers

Three of the four crew members who were involved in the wreck died. A fourth was injured but his injuries were not life-threatening.

A subsequent report by The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stated that the eastbound BNSF railway train failed to slow down when it encountered a yellow warning signal on June 28. It then went through a red signal before hitting an oncoming BNSF train.

The force of the collision when the BNSF trains collided caused one of the trains to derail.  BNSF said in a statement it has been actively deploying positive train control (PTC) across its network and the Texas accident was the kind of incident that technology was developed to prevent.

When trains collide or derail, workers are often injured or even killed. Earlier this year, two Amtrak workers died when a train hit equipment they were working on in Pennsylvania.

Lawsuits have subsequently been brought after the wreck. I have also detailed how positive train control has been repeatedly delayed as the big railroad companies have claimed they are not ready for it.

Congress decided to implement PTC after one of the nation’s worst train accidents in 2008, when a Metrolink commuter train crashed into a freight train near Los Angeles in California, leaving 25 people dead and injuring more than 100.

Both passengers and railroad workers alike would benefit from PTC. If you are a worker who is hurt on the railroad due to negligence you have the right to sue a railroad operator under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). Please call me for a free and confidential consultation today at (866) 455-6657.

John Cooper


Deteriorating Tracks Caused DC Metro Train Derailment

I am seeing more and more derailments and crashes on the railroads that are caused by deteriorating tracks. This week, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said poor track conditions along the Orange and Silver lines led to the derailment of a Metro train on Friday.

The Metro safety department revealed that two rails had become too wide due to deteriorating rail ties. More than 450 rail ties were replaced on the track between Ballston and West Falls Church after the derailment.

Deteriorating tracks are causing crashes

This finding alarms me as a railroad accident injury lawyer. Last year I highlighted a report that explained how deteriorating rails are causing accidents. Track and ballast integrity sensors could help identify these problems before derailments occur.

In the latest crash in Washington DC, a six-car Metro train derailed. The crash injured one rider and damaged two cars. It could have been much worse. The crash occurred near the East Falls Church Metro Station.

Metro said there was no evidence of train operator error leading up to the derailment. However, factors like car equipment, weather, high temperatures and other causes remain under review.

Metro General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld said a specialized track inspection was underway to make sure the problems that caused the derailment are not more widespread.

After the accident occurred service along the Orange and Blue lines was suspended until Monday morning to give time for a rigorous inspection and clean-up of the derailment site. Shuttle buses were used to ferry passengers between the affected Metro stops.

Problems with Tracks Are Causing Oil Trains to Crash

Last year, a report in the Los Angeles Times revealed track problems were behind many of the recent crashes of oil or ethanol trains.

Of 31 crashes involving crude or ethanol that have occurred on America’s railroads since 2013, 17 were related to track problems, the report stated.

The article pointed out the relentless pounding of the tracks from heavy trains can cause them to get wider and lead to derailments. Freight tracks in the U.S. are meant to be 56.5 inches apart. A mere three inches of movement can cause a train to derail. The report said even if tracks conform to federal standards, they can still separate under the force of a heavy train.

This is an alarming scenario for railroad workers and passengers alike. In recent years we have seen a series of fires and explosions as well as chemical leaks that have placed communities in danger.

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a rail accident, you should contact me about your rights. Call (866) 455-6657.

John Cooper

Dangerous Chemicals Spilled in CSX Derailment in Washington D.C.

Trains carry toxic and flammable materials long distances across the country. It would be reassuring for railroad workers and people who live near the tracks to know dangerous chemicals were being safely carried, but a series of accidents on America’s railroads gives me little cause for comfort.

In the latest incident, chemicals leaked from a CSX train after a derailment in the Washington, D.C. area that sent 14 cars off the tracks and spilled hazardous material.

The train derailed about 6:40 a.m. on May 1 near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station, CSX said. The railroad said sodium hydroxide leaked from the car. The tanker was carrying approximately 15,500 gallons of the chemical, reported CBS.

Dangerous chemicals were spilled from a tanker car
Tanker cars routinely fail during derailments

Sodium hydroxide is not the kind of chemical you want to be leaking out. It is highly corrosive. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it causes irritation of the skin, eyes and respiratory system. Fire crews said about half of the tanker was emptied, with the chemical leaking into the ground under the tracks.

No injuries were reported to either crew members, first responders or members of the public. The incident caused major delays on the railroad network.

Another derailed tank car was reported to have leaked a non-hazardous calcium chloride solution and a third tanker was seeping ethanol.

Although nobody was harmed in the incident in D.C., it again highlights how hazardous the railroads are and how tanker cars routinely fail to hold dangerous chemicals when trains derail. I have written in the past about the tragedy in Graniteville, S.C., when dangerous chlorine leaked from Norfolk Southern tanker cars after a crash, killing nine people in 2005.

If you have been exposed to hazardous chemicals on the railroad and your health has been affected, you may have grounds to sue under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). Call us today at (866) 455-6657.

Questions Linger After Two Amtrak Railroad Workers Die in Philadelphia Derailment

john-web-imageBy John Cooper, FELA Injury Lawyer

When passenger trains derail, injuries to the commuters often make headlines. However, crew members and railroad workers often also become victims as demonstrated near Philadelphia this weekend.

Early on Sunday, another Amtrak train derailed after it hit construction equipment on the tracks close to Philadelphia. Two railroad workers lost their lives in this crash. There are still many unanswered questions.

The accident occurred early on Sunday morning at Chester near Philadelphia. As well as killing two workers, the crash injured more than 30 passengers.

An Amtrak Train Derailed near Philadelphia

The New York Times reported that a team from the National Transportation Safety Board visited the accident scene later in the day. The most pressing question was why a backhoe was on the line as the train approached.

Accounts from passengers suggested the train was traveling at a high rate of speed with no sign of problems when there was a jarring crash followed by a “shuddering deceleration.” The New York Times reported the crash crumpled up the engine and smashed the windshield. Riders in the front two cars appear to have been most seriously injured as they were thrown to the ground. Some passengers compared the sideward movement of the train to being like a roller coaster.

FELA Claims After Amtrak Crashes

The train crash scene was close to that of an Amtrak wreck in Philadelphia almost a year ago that killed eight and injured around 200. It was one of the worst train crashes in recent years. Claims were made by railroad workers as well as passengers after this horrific crash.

In the past, I have written about claims under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) in the wake of the Amtrak crash of 2015.

The first documented lawsuit was filed by an Amtrak employee, according to NBC Philadelphia. Bruce Phillips was an Amtrak dispatcher who was traveling in the last of the train’s seven cars when it derailed. The dispatcher filed a lawsuit as an employee under FELA which allows railroaders who are injured on the job to seek compensation. If you have lost a loved one who was working on the railroad, you may have grounds to make a claim under the FELA legislation.

I have been working with injured railroad workers and the families of those who have lost their lives for 25 years. Call me at (866) 455-6657 for a free consultation.

Norfolk Southern Train Derails in Botetourt County

john-web-imageBy John Cooper, Railroad Injury Lawyer

Norfolk Southern is investigating an accident in Botetourt County, Virginia this week in which a train hit the back of another, causing cars to derail.

The Roanoke Times reported the accident occurred on Wednesday morning just before 1 a.m. when a northbound train struck the rear of a stopped train near Roanoke, Virginia.

News reports stated five cars on the stationary train derailed and three of them turned over onto their sides. Four of the cars were reported to be empty, and the other contained wood pulp.

No injuries to workers were reported and no hazardous materials were spilled in the crash.

Deputy Chief David Firestone of Botetourt County Fire and EMS said there was no evidence of private property damage after the derailment near the Nace Road, east of its intersection with Webb Lane, just 100 yards from several homes.

Norfolk-Southern logo

This accident illustrates how easily things can go wrong on the railroad. Derailments are all too common. If this train had been carrying hazardous materials or crude oil, the incident could have been more serious.

Derailments that Caused Explosions

In 2014, the derailment of a CSX train in Lynchburg near Roanoke sent three burning tanker cars into the James River and prompted evacuations of parts of Lynchburg. The accident could have been so much worse.

The Roanoke Times reported on how about 50,000 gallons of crude oil remained unaccounted for late after the CSX train derailed in downtown Lynchburg and sent burning tanker cars into the river, raising pollution fears.

Perceived problems with tanker cars have been linked to a spate of railroad explosions across North America. The worst freight train accident in recent years occurred in 2013 in Lac-Megantic in Quebec in Canada when a train derailment killed 47 people in July 2013

Fuel tanker cars ruptured, causing a series of explosions. A recent survey found  anxiety problems were twice as frequent in Lac-Megantic as they were in the rest of the surrounding region in which it is located, two years after the tragedy. Psychological distress affected about one in three people in Lac-Megantic, compared with one out of five elsewhere.

Derailments can be caused by a range of factors including crossing accidents, line failures and human error. If you have been injured while working on the railroad, call me today at (866) 455-6657.




Amtrak Crash in Kansas Injures 32 People

john-web-imageBy John Cooper, Railroad Injury Lawyer

The sight of Amtrak cars lying on their side after a derailment has become an increasingly common one in recent years. I was alarmed to read about how it happened again in Kansas in a crash that injured 32 people.

This crash on Monday morning raises many questions. Latest news reports suggest officials believe an unreported vehicle crash may have damaged the tracks before an Amtrak train derailed in Kansas.

We have seen a number of serious passenger train accidents over the last two years. In May 2015, an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia, killing eight and injuring many more. The train was speeding into a curve.

The Amtrak crash in Kansas

In Kansas, an engineer noticed a significant bend in a rail ahead and put on the emergency brakes shortly before the passenger train derailed, the Associated Press reported. The Amtrak train appeared to have been traveling at about 75 miles when the engineer pulled the emergency break.

Information that a vehicle accident may have occurred before the wreck that damage the tracks came from the Gray County sheriff’s department. The authorities looked at tire tracks leading to the train tracks and preserved the scene with crime scene tape.

Amtrak said 32 people who were involved in the derailment were taken to local hospitals for treatment. All but three had been released by late morning.

FELA Claims After Passenger Train Crashes

Earlier this month nine people were injured when a train with 214 passengers on board derailed in California. Officials said a mudslide was the likely cause of a tree being on the line that caused the derailment on the Altamont Corridor Express train, Union Pacific said.

As a passenger on a train, you have a right to a safe ride on any train. This right includes holding the railroad company accountable if you get hurt en route. Numerous lawsuits were filed after the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia by both passengers and their families and crew members.

The first lawsuit was filed by an employee of the railroad service, according to NBC Philadelphia. Bruce Phillips was working as an Amtrak dispatcher and was traveling in the last of the train’s seven cars when it left the tracks. The dispatcher filed a lawsuit as an employee under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), which allows railroaders injured on the job to seek compensation.

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a train crash, call us at (866) 455-6657 for a free consultation.