Two CSX train crew members suffered injuries that required hospital treatment when the engine they were working on collided with a parked rail car and derailed. The crash and derailment happened in an industrial railyard along Scottslawn Road outside of Marysville, Ohio (OH), on February 9, 2016.
Investigators could not immediately determine why the out-of-service car was on a track being used by an arriving train. Nor was it clear why the train's crew did not know the obstacle existed or why they were not put on a clear track. Getting definitive answers to those and dozens of other questions arising from the accident could take months.
The explanation may come down to a communications breakdown. Rail yards are busy, crowded places. Dangers to railroad workers exist in the forms of rolling stock, moving locomotives, shifting cargoes and, most threateningly, inattentive and negligent people. If investigators find, for instance, that a dispatcher delivered improper or incorrect directions, the injured train crew members could have a claim for compensation under a law like the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA).
Some preliminary reports indicate that a track switch was misaligned. This would likely mean that a prior railroad crew aligned the switch in the wrong direction and may have failed to move the switch back to a mainline position, derailing the train when it came through the same area later. This type of human-error derailment has occurred innumerable times over the years, and it also may mean a subsequent failure to communicate the track direction to the appropriate railroad personnel. Switch positions must often be visually observed by train crews traveling on railroad tracks even though some switches have electronic controls and can be controlled by remote dispatchers.
Beyond ensuring the injured railroad workers have their medical bills and lost wages covered, finding out what went wrong in the Ohio rail yard is essential for making sure similar problems do not recur. Any error can be corrected, and any piece of faulty equipment can be repaired. Taking those necessary actions makes everyone safer.