22 Injured, Including Crew Members, When Amtrak Train Derails

Amtrak derilmentAn Amtrak train known as the California Zephyr, which runs between Chicago and Los Angeles, experienced its second major accident within two months when it derailed in Nebraska (NE) after colliding with a crane on August 26, 2011. Twenty-two people -- including passengers, two people outside the train and Amtrak crew members -- suffered injuries when several cars and the locomotive of the train ran off the rails. Those injuries varied in severity but did include "back and next injuries," according to an official overseeing response to the derailment.

The California Zephyr was also the passenger train involved in the horrific railroad crossing collision near Reno, Nevada (NV), on June 24, 2011, which killed six people, including an Amtrak conductor. Twenty other people aboard the Zephyr were burned or injured. The train crew was not at fault in either accident. A semi driver ignored signals and crossing gates before slamming into the train in Nevada; in Nebraska, the crane operator had placed his machine too close to the tracks.

Crashes and derailments are ever-present dangers for trains and the people who ride and crew them. It may be uncommon for the same train to experience both kinds of major accidents in a period of 62 days, but the unlikeness of the coincidence provides little consolation to the passengers, conductors, engineers and other railroad employees hurt and killed in Nevada and Nebraska.

As a Virginia FELA attorney, I know, as everyone should, that "right of way" means both the tracks on which trains travel and the precedence trains have to travel through an intersection before any other vehicles or pedestrians. Failing to respect either type of a train's right of way too often causes needless injuries and deaths.

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