Railroad crossing under investigation over Amtrak derailment in Missouri

The four people who died in Monday’s Amtrak train derailment in rural Missouri were identified on Wednesday, days after the tragedy. crashed into a dump truckderailed the entire train.

Rochelle Cook, 57, and Kim Holsapple, 56, both from Desoto, Kansas, and train passengers were pronounced dead at the scene on Monday, as was dump truck driver Billy Barton II, 53, of Brookfield. , Missouri, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol. A third passenger on the train, Binh Pham, 82, from Kansas City, also died on Monday, but after being taken to a university hospital in Columbia, officials said.

More than 150 people with minor to severe injuries were taken to 10 different district hospitals for treatment, officials said.

The Southwest Chief train, en route from Los Angeles to Chicago with 275 passengers and 12 crew members, crashed into a truck near the town of Mendon, northwest of Columbia, at a gravel road railroad crossing not marked with electronic signals or wishbones.

National Transportation Safety Board officials said Tuesday that the federal investigation into the accident will focus on the railroad crossing, which was planned to improve and become concern for the safety of local farmers.

Officials said the fatal collision was unlikely to be due to mechanical or track issues.

Just before 1:00 p.m. Monday, an Amtrak train crashed into the back of a dump truck at a rural railroad junction, causing all eight cars of the train and two of its locomotives to derail, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said at a news conference on Tuesday. According to her, the truck delivered stones to the project of the local Army Corps of Engineers.

Homendy said the intersection is a “passive crossing”, meaning there are no signal lights, bells or cross lanes, only signs for oncoming drivers. She said that about 50% of the 130,000 railroad crossings in the US are considered passive.

“The NTSB has for a number of years issued recommendations to either close crossings, merge crossings, separate level crossings and create undivided level crossings, or merge active crossings so that there are gates, bells and whistles to warn drivers who are approaching. transitions,” Khomendi said.

It’s not clear to what extent these recommendations have been implemented in Missouri and across the US, but Missouri Department of Transportation officials confirmed that upgrades to the railroad crossing at the crash site had not yet taken place this week.

Drivers approaching a rural crossing in Khariton County, Missouri, will see two black-and-white cross-shaped signs called crossbucks, often read as “railroad crossing,” officials said.

The site has been identified for upgrades this year that could include lighting, gates and other roadway improvements, costing $400,000, according to infrastructure plan published this year by the Missouri Department of Transportation. But department spokeswoman Linda Horne said the project had not yet begun.

She said state transport officials are still working with the private rail operator. BNSF railwaysand local officials to “develop an agreed solution and schedule”, then a contractor would need to be hired to complete the work.

According to a report from the Kansas City Star, farmers in the area raised concerns about the railroad crossing, but to no avail. They said the approach was too steep and the bushes around were hard to see and asked for better signals.

There are 3,311 railroad crossings in Missouri, Horn said, and about half of those are considered passive or unlit.

Homendy also said that the NTSB made recommendations in 1998 to improve technology in vehicles to better warn drivers of trains or approaching level crossings, but this was also not implemented.

“24 years have passed and this recommendation is as important today as it was in 1998,” Homendy said. “Life can be saved. … Our investigators are very upset when they are at the scene and know what could have prevented this.”

Homendy said her team of 15 investigators will check the train’s event recorder, which will provide information about the train’s speed, braking and signaling, such as whether the horn sounded, as well as the train’s two forward-facing cameras. They will also check if such information is available for the truck. Amtrak and BNSF are supporting the investigation, she said.

The NTSB’s mission is to understand “what happened, why it happened, and to prevent this problem from happening again in the future,” Homendy said. “To the families who have lost loved ones in this tragedy, we express our deepest condolences. To the survivors… we will think of you in the coming weeks, days, months.”

She also thanked the two Boy Scout teams who were on the train back to Wisconsin. helped in an emergency.

Attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi, who has represented victims of other Amtrak accidents, said NTSB investigators “will focus on each safety factor, ultimately determining whether this incident was predictable and preventable.”

“Passengers and the general public need to be confident that the Amtrak system, including railroad crossings from coast to coast, is safe,” Mongeluzzi said. “We know from years of experience that properly operated trains and well maintained tracks should not be involved in incidents like this.”

Although the roadway where the accident occurred is not paved and is in the countryside, Cpl. of the Missouri Highway Patrol. Justin Dunn said it was wide enough for two-way traffic. Shared photos of the Missouri Highway Patrol. after the crash showed a line of vehicles, including a truck and a school bus, on either side of the railroad junction.

The accident happened the day after another Amtrak train collided with a car in East Bay, California, also at a rural railroad crossing, killing three people. There were 85 people on the train from Stockton to Martinez. According to official figures, there were no injuries among the passengers of the train and the crew.

“Unfortunately, despite its history, Amtrak has yet to create a culture where safety is its highest priority,” said Jeffrey Goodman, Mongeluzzi’s partner.

Goodman and Mongeluzzi represented the victims of the 2015 Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia. that killed eight peopleAmtrak train derailment in Montana in 2021. who killed three and other fatal crashes in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Sunday’s East Bay crash site was also in a rural area, where a dirt road crosses railroad tracks with no electronic signals or arms crossed, said Steve Oberth, fire chief of the East Contra Costa Fire Department. He said the stretch of road mostly connects private property to paved roads, so traffic is limited. But in the area, trains are allowed to travel up to 80 miles per hour on mostly agricultural land.

“So fast—it would take them a mile and a half to even stop,” Aubert said. He said that there was a sign indicating a railroad crossing, but nothing more.

“No guards, no signals, nothing,” Aubert said. “They’re looking at how much traffic is intersecting in one section, and it’s prohibitively expensive.”

He said his agency responds to train and vehicle accidents once or twice a year, usually involving farm trucks that can’t move too fast, though this is rarely fatal.

But there are often safety issues at both types of these level crossings—with and without electronic signals or crossbars,” said Nancy Sheehan, executive director California operation “Rescuer”, non-profit organization dedicated to train safety education.

“Trains can move faster than you think, so we always recommend waiting for the train to pass at these crossings and then looking both ways again,” Sheehan said.

She said people often expect to hear approaching trains, but upgraded technology has changed the noise of many trains.

“You want to make sure you’re looking for and listening to the train,” Sheehan said. “Be vigilant, be vigilant and always wait for the train.”

There were 2,148 railroad crossing collisions in the United States in 2021, resulting in 236 deaths and 662 injuries, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. However, these incidents have long been on a downward trend. In 1981 there were over 700 such deaths.