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

Were Backup Safety Systems Disabled Before Fatal Chester Amtrak Crash?

By John Cooper, FELA Accident Lawyer

Concerns about the lack of backup safety precautions have been raised by Sunday’s fatal Amtrak crash near Philadelphia that claimed the lives of two railroad workers. A report in Philly.com stated federal regulators have advised the railroads to implement a system of safety precautions on numerous occasions.

The importance of backup systems followed a number of accidents that were similar to the one in Chester that killed two railroad workers who were operating a backhoe.

Backup systems may have failed before Amtrak crash

The article cited sources with an inside knowledge who suggested a lapse in communications during a shift change led the two workers to be on the tracks at a time when the backup safety precautions were cancelled.

An advisory in 2014 by the Federal Railroad Administration safety advisory, said the lack of backup warning has been an ongoing problem on the railroads. It raises a lot of alarming questions about Amtrak procedures and whether the railroad may have been responsible for these deaths as well as injuries to upwards of 30 people on the train.

“FRA is concerned about the infrequent, but repetitive incidents involving roadway workers being struck or nearly struck by trains that appear to be due to miscommunication.”

Backups were seen as a stopgap before the automatic breaking system, called Positive Train Control (PTC), was brought in. Although PTC has been brought in on much of the Amtrak network, this crash suggests there is still a need for backup precautions.

Amtrak Train Hit Backhoe at More than 100 MPH

Amtrak Train 89 en route from New York for Savannah, Ga., on Sunday, was reported to be hitting speeds of 106 mph when it hit a backhoe, according to a National Transportation Safety Board investigative team.

The workers who lost their lives were later named as Joseph Carter Jr., a 61-year-old of Wilmington, and Peter John Adamovich, 59, of Chester County.

The Philly.com article cited a FRA advisory in 2014 that cited three examples between 2007 and 2013 of communication problems that led to the deaths of workers. Almost 100 workers were killed in the five years from 2010 to 2015.
Amtrak have given few clues about why the backhoe was on the line. My thoughts as a railroad worker/FELA injury lawyer are with the families of the workers who lost their lives, as well as the passengers who were injured. If you or a loved one has been in a railroad accident, they should consider calling me 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.

 

Nine Passengers Are Injured in California Train Derailment

By John Cooper, Railroad Accident Injury Lawyer

There are a number of causes of train crashes from driver error to mechanical faults. In the case of a crash this week in California, a tree that had fallen on the tracks an isolated region of the state caused a crash that injured nine people.

Two of the cars derailed and one was sent plummeting into a nearby creek. I was alarmed to read about how four passengers were seriously hurt and sent to Washington Hospital in Fremont and Eden Hospital in Castro Valley. Five other passengers suffered minor injuries.

Alaneda, ca train derailment
The crash in remote California (Alameda County Fire)

First responders said it was remarkable that nobody was killed in the dramatic crash. The train crashed sometime between 7:15 and 7:30 p.m. on March 7 after striking a tree lying on the tracks.

Investigators said a mudslide was the likely cause of the tree being on the line.  The apparent mudslide swept a tree onto the tracks, derailing cars on the Altamont Corridor Express train, Union Pacific Spokesman Francisco J. Castillo said.

There were 214 passengers on the train at the time of the derailment, according to officials.

The crash bears similarities to the derailment of an Amtrak train in Vermont last year. The train left the tracks near Northfield, Vermont, injuring six people, officials said. There were no fatalities.

The Montpelier Fire Department, said at least two cars left the tracks and  went over an embankment.

Federal investigators found the preliminary cause of the accident was a rock slide in the path of the Amtrak train. A crew member was among the injured in that crash.

Railroads have a duty to keep tracks free of debris, although it can be difficult to anticipate events like mud slides in remote areas.

There have been some deadly train crashes in recent years including last year’s high speed derailment in Philadelphia that killed eight passengers. However, the most deadly railroad crashes in US history occurred in the early 20th Century.

Our railroad injury lawyers represent passengers and workers who are injured on the railroad. Call us at (866) 455-6657.

Crew Members Are Hurt in Amtrak Derailment in Vermont

By John Cooper, Railroad Injury Lawyer

When trains derail the injuries to passengers often make headlines. However, crew members are often hurt too.

It did not escape my notice that when an Amtrak train derailed in Vermont this week, the most seriously injured person on board was a conductor who, according to reports, was detained in the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to be treated for serious injuries to the abdomen. He also suffered bruises, a concussion and scrapes. I was relieved to read how all of the injured had been released from a local hospital by Wednesday.

Of the seven people who were injured in the Vermont derailment, three were crew members and four were passengers.

If you are a railroad worker who is injured on the job you may have rights to sue the rail company under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). Unlike workers compensation, a railroad must bear some blame for an injury for a claim to be successful under FELA.

A number of railroad workers sued Amtrak over a catastrophic crash in May when a train derailed in Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring more than 200.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said previously that the train accelerated up to 106 miles per hour in the last minute before entering a curve where the speed limit is 50 mph. The brakes were applied but the train was still traveling at 100 mph when it crashed.

The Vermont derailment was caused by a rock slide. Although the liability issues are less clear cut here, there is a question about whether the railroad should have had netting to protect trains from this scenario.

Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman told reporters on Tuesday in Montpelier, the Vermont capital, that Amtrak has deployed heavy-duty netting to block rock slides from tumbling onto railroad tracks, but not in Vermont.

The devices in question are called slide fences, and they’re similar to nets commonly seen at the side of mountain highways. The railroad versions are more sophisticated in that they have sensors that relay alerts to approaching trains. Boardman said their use is restricted to New York and he wasn’t sure if they would work in Vermont.

The Amtrak service is likely to be restored to the state by this weekend — after investigators finish examining the crash site and the tracks are repaired.

The National Transportation Safety Board will examine the official cause of the accident, but Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has stated human error was not to blame for the train’s jumping tracks in the town of Northfield, about 10 miles south of Montpelier.

While Boardman joined Shumlin at the news conference on Tuesday he did not comment on the cause of the crash although he expressed relief that the injuries were not more extensive.

The southbound train, called “The Vermonter,” derailed on Monday morning after hitting fallen rocks. The collision sent the engine and the first passenger car tumbling into a brook.

When railroad workers are injured on passenger or freight trains, they may have grounds to make a claim against the railroad for their injuries. Call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at 866.455.6657.

Workers and Passengers Injured in Amtrak Crash in Philadelphia are Left in Limbo

John-cooperBy John Cooper, Railroad Injury Lawyer

There was a lot of publicity at the time when Amtrak Train 188 derailed in May, killing eight and injuring more than 200 people in Philadelphia.

Now the dust has settled the woeful shortcomings of Amtrak are out of the headlines. But the victims of the crash are still fighting every day for recognition and compensation.

Recently the Philadelphia Inquirer reported how the issue of compensation for injured workers and passengers will be in limbo for weeks and maybe even months with Congress on its summer break. It remains to be seen if a cap on damages in crashes like this will be lifted.

The issue at stake is a 1997 law that caps the liability in rail accidents at $200 million, an amount that experts say likely will not be enough to cover the damages for the eight people killed and more than 200 injured in the Philadelphia accident.

The Senate moved to address the concern at the end of the last session, voting to raise the limit to $295 million and making the change retroactive to the May crash. But it was not the end of the matter. The House left for the summer, and the Senate began its recess soon after, leaving the proposal’s fate to be decided in the fall, when it is expected to become “part of high-stakes negotiations over a sweeping transportation plan,” the Inquirer reported.

The proposal comes as the horrors of the crash back in May are brought to life in numerous lawsuits. Bob Hewett ended up with fractures to more than 20 ribs, his hip, and his spine, as well as a collapsed lung. Leonard Knobbs suffered a fractured back and knee, broken ribs, and bruised lungs.

The Inquirer noted how Eli Kulp was paralyzed below his chest. Robert Gildersleeve was killed, leaving behind a wife and two teenage children.

They are some of those who are suing Amtrak after the train derailed at 102 mph on a curve posted for 50 mph. A considerable number of the injured were Amtrak workers.

Recently RT.com reported that Bruce A. Phillips, an Amtrak dispatcher, who was hitching a ride on the train, is suing Amtrak. He was “deadheading”  on the trip from Philadelphia to New York City on May 12, meaning his ride was free of charge as an off-duty employee. In his claim Phillips says he was “violently hurled about the railcar, striking his body on numerous parts of the railcar interior, before slamming onto the floor, as a result of which he sustained permanent personal injuries.”

Phillips was one of the passengers with serious injuries who were hospitalized at Temple University Hospital in the days after the crash. RT.com reported he sustained some very serious injuries including traumatic brain injury in the crash, multiple cuts and bruises on his body, neurological injuries, multiple orthopedic and emotional trauma.

It’s disheartening to see how Congress has left these badly injured workers and passengers in a state of limbo over compensation from a crash in which Amtrak was clearly to blame for.

Our railroad worker injury attorneys represent railroad employees who are injured in accidents across the country. Call us for a free consultation at 866-455-6657.

Broken Rails are Linked to New York Derailment that Injured Two Workers and 30 Passengers

John-cooperBy John Cooper, Railroad Injury Lawyer

Broken rails are not just a cosmetic problem. They can cause derailments that lead to injuries to workers.

A recent report in Gothamist found a large number of broken rails in Woodside, Queens in New York at the scene of a derailment last May.

In the wake of the accident, more than 1,000 people had to be near 65th Street Station. About 30 passengers and two workers reported injuries when the Brookyln-bound F-train derailed.

F-train

The report stated the track on which the accident occurred was marked as a “critical rail break” area where 205 broken rails were found between 2005 and 2012. It was the second highest spot in the city in that time span. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) concluded that the derailment was the “result of a lot of overlooked defects in the track that had gone unnoticed for around a year.”

The report drew on prior inspection reports to identify several minor defects in track at the point of derailment. “Individually, none of them was capable of causing a derailment, but the combination of defects in one location was the most likely cause of the derailment,” stated the report.

New York City Transit changed its inspection protocols to make sure rail defects are appropriately identified and repaired, after the accident.

On May 2, 2014, a 7-foot, 11-inch section of a 19-foot, 6-inch-long rail fractured beneath the train as it traveled at about 40 miles per hour, causing six of the eight cars to derail, the report points out. “Thirty customers and two employees reported minor injuries, and the damage was valued at more than $2 million.”

The defects present on the railroad included a broken plate, broken fasteners and a deteriorated tie, all of which should have been high priority for repairs. The report concluded that the “Division of Track personnel did not identify, document and correct the track defect at that location, either during regular inspections or when the two prior broken rails were replaced. They also did not adequately investigate the underlying causes of the broken rails.”

The MTA said it would take disciplinary action against three maintenance supervisors and an inspector for their role in the incident. In response, the Transport Workers Union arguing that the blame should be placed on the MTA for purchasing defective rails made in China, rather than the workers who it said were scapegoats.

As a FELA railroad injury lawyer, I see many instances in which railroads seek to blame workers for more endemic problems that they should have identified. If you are injured in a derailment, an experienced railroad injury lawyer can advise you of your rights. Call us at 866-445-6657.

Shipping Crude Oil Poses a Danger to Railroad Workers

John-cooperBy John Cooper, Railroad Accident Lawyer

When one pictures the movement of crude oil across the United States one pictures massive pipelines criss-crossing the United States, pumping thousands of gallons of oil to its destination. However, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out yesterday, in the past 5 years or so there has been a remarkable change in the way oil is transported . Today nearly 20 percent of crude oil is transported by rail. Most of the oil is loaded on cars in North Dakota and Western Canada and is shipped to railheads in the midwest or along the Gulf Coast for processing. However A large quantity is also shipped east to New York, Philadelphia, and of course to Tidewater Virginia.

 

To many commentators, shipping oil on the railroads has clear advantages. It has lower initial capital costs than pipelines, it allows distributors to ship oil to wherever they want to receive the highest price. However there is one major downside, namely safety. In 2013 an oil train in Lac-Mégantic, in Quebec, derailed and exploded, killing 47 people. In the same year, two BNSF trains were involved in a derailment that released over 400,000 gallons of crude and led to a explosion several stories tall and lead to an evacuation of 1,400 people. There have been numerous instances of train derailments in leaks that not only result in toxic crude oil being released but also results in it exploding, often resulting in the loss of life.

I shudder to think what would happen if a similar accident took place in densely populated Hampton Roads. It may not take a great leap of imagination as a similar oil accident happened in Lynchburg, Virginia earlier this year when a CSX train exploded after derailing. It was an accident that highlighted just how unprepared most first responders are to an accident of this magnitude. Railroad workers are especially at risk due to their proximity to any explosion that would happen. It’s just one more hazard of working on the railroad.

Luckily in the Lynchburg accident there was no loss of life, but the Canadian incident illustrated the potential risks. I hope the newly proposed US Department of Transportation rules and recently enacted Association of American Railroads regulations help diminish the likelihood of an accident before it’s too late.

The specifications of the DOT-111 tank car are inherent to the problem. The workhorse for transporting flammable materials and hazardous substances, has a truly appalling safety record. I’ve been warning about the problems associated with these tank cars for years to no avail. Unfortunately so far little to no progress has taken place by the railroads and decision makers on this issue. Only in recent years have regulators started to talk about the DOT-111 tanker cars. How many more accidents have to occur, endangering the lives of railroad workers and local residents, before truly comprehensive action takes place to remove these hazardous cars from America’s tracks? The fact that the problems associated with this car have been known since 1983 had little to no action has taken place is simply appalling. Hopefully action will be taken to rectify the problem before these tankers enter the headlines again.
If you have been hurt in a railroad accident call our Virginia railroad accident attorneys at 757.455.0077 or see CooperHurley.com