An unexpected flood washed out tracks near the town of Camden in Benton County, Tennessee (TN), on the night of October 27, 2014, creating a situation that led to a CSX freight train derailment. Two crew members in the locomotive suffered injuries that required hospital treatment, and they needed to be rescued from possible drowning when the engine got caught in rushing waters.
Emergency responders said a nearby levee for a pond gave way only a few minutes before the train towing empty rail cars entered the area. According to the Jackson Sun, "The Benton County Sheriff's Office received a call at about 10 pm concerning the flood. The train came through the area about this time and derailed due to the flooding."
This particular railroad accident may have been unavoidable. But it is worth noting that major railroads maintain subscriptions to independent weather forecasting services to minimize risk from changing and evolving conditions. As one can imagine, changing weather is something that is of the utmost concern to railroads. Dispatchers pay close attention to changing weather conditions involving rain, flooding, high winds and snowstorms.
This means that, usually, risks to workers' health and safety can be identified and addressed well in advance. For instance, a head-on collision between two Arkansas-Missouri Railroad trains earlier this month could have been prevented if engineers and dispatchers had maintained continuous radio contact.
More than anything, the wreck in Tennessee illustrates the dangers railroad workers face on the job at all times. Train crews cannot swerve, stomp on the brakes or safely evacuate when obstacles, flood waters or vehicles suddenly loom into view. The best protections they have come from information provided by dispatchers and local safety officials and proper track maintenance. As a Virginia-based personal injury lawyer who has helped rail employees hurt on the job since the 1980s, though, I have seen those relationships and systems fail too often.
I wish the injured CSX employees full and rapid recoveries.