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Brett Emison
Brett Emison
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Two Killed in Amsterdam, Missouri Railroad Crossing Accident

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The Kansas City Star has reported that Mary Redmond, of Linn Valley, Kansas and John South, of Amsterdam, Missouri were killed when their vehicle was struck by a train in an apparent railroad crossing accident.

The Star report did not have many details to report. However, this is another reminder of how dangerous railroad crossings can be. In the last 10 years, there have been more than 30,000 railroad crossing accidents and more than 3,600 deaths.

These train accidents can have many causes, including:

  • Failure of the railroad company to install proper warnings, such as lights, alarms (crossing bells) or a functioning crossing gate

  • Defective warnings — inoperable lights, bells or gates

  • Improper sight lines that prevent a vehicle’s driver from seeing an oncoming train until it is too late

  • Failure to properly maintain the crossing — such as allowing overgrown trees, vegetation and other foliage to obstruct or hide an oncoming train

  • Improperly parking a train at or near a crossing — this not only hides an oncoming train from view, but gives motorists a false sense of safety in seeing a parked train at the crossing

  • Failure to sound the train’s horn or whistle at or near the crossing

  • Other negligence that may appear on the train’s data recorder or video recorder

It takes a skilled team of investigators and experts to identify critical information.

While many people immediately blame the driver — wondering perhaps if the driver tried to beat the train across the tracks — many times the railroad or train crew played a significant role in the collision. For example, just recently, Burlington Northern Sante Fe was found to have destroyed evidence in an attempt to cover up its role in the deaths of four young people in Minnesota.

Burlington Northern Sante Fe Corp. ["BNSF"] engaged in a "staggering" pattern of misconduct aimed at covering up its role in the deaths of four young people whose car collided with a train largely because a crossing gate wasn’t working properly, a Washington County judge declared Thursday.

To punish the railroad, which allegedly began destroying evidence within minutes of the 2003 accident, Judge Ellen Maas awarded $4 million to the victims’ families and their attorneys. The award comes on top of $21.6 million from a jury that placed 90 percent of the blame for the accident on Burlington Northern.

A railroad company is responsible for assuring that train crossing warning systems are active and in working order. In one Langdon & Emison case, the flashing lights were working, but there was no train visible. As the vehicle attempted to cross the tracks, a train came around a curve, failed to use its horn and collided with the car. In another case, a train was obstructed by overgrown vegetation and the crossing lights did not activate. Too often, railroad companies allow weeds, grass, trees and other vegetation to overgrow near railroad crossings. This overgrown foliage prevents motorists from seeing an oncoming train.

You can learn more about train accidents at our web site.

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