Last month, a Miami-bound Amtrak train diverted to a sidetrack, traveled a short distance, and then collided head-on with a stationary freight train.
According to reports, the train was moving approximately 50 mph at the time of the collision in South Carolina. The National Transportation Safety Board noted that the accident pushed the freight train backward roughly 15 feet. Because of the accident, which occurred at approximately 2:35 a.m., at least 92 people suffered injuries and two Amtrak employees lost their lives.
A spokesperson for the NTSB said that the train’s engineer sounded the onboard horn and almost immediately hit the emergency brake. He also noted that the train’s event data recorder revealed that seven seconds before the recording ended, the horn sounded for three seconds. At that point, it was moving at 57 mph, which was below the limit allowed.
Investigators reportedly don’t know whether the horn sounded before or after the train made its way to the siding. What they do know is that the switch diverting the passenger train to the sidetrack had been set manually. And Amtrak’s CEO says the freight train’s dispatchers directed the passenger train to the line. The NTSB says the crash could have been avoided if a positive train control system was in use.
Many people travel by train every day of the week. While this is considered a safe mode of transportation, stories like this prove that things can go wrong. When they do, injury victims or those claiming wrongful death have the right to seek legal redress along several axes.
In this case, the question of fault remains undetermined. Regardless of that however, The Associated Press reports that because of secretive, no-fault legal agreements between the railroads, Amtrak is likely to be the entity that pays. And because it is federally subsidized, public money will be involved.