A rear-end collision between two Norfolk Southern freight trains in southwestern Virginia sent two railroad workers to the hospital with injuries. The train crash occurred late in the afternoon of July 14, 2015, near the town of Dublin, VA, when both trains were sharing a track and traveling in the same direction. It was not immediately clear why the lead train had slowed or stopped or why the following train approached too quickly.
The injured crew members were both on the following train. Reports do not indicate whether they are engineers, conductors or brakemen. Each is expected to survive.
The force of the collision caused several rail cars attached to the lead train to derail and tumble onto private property bordering Route 11. One of the tank cars filled with lubricating oil sprung a leak and spilled more than 20,000 gallons of the liquid petroleum product. Environmental cleanup may take weeks or months,
Having spent three decades as a Virginia-based attorney helping rail workers who suffered injuries on the job, I can state without risk of being contradicted that trains should never crash into each other like this. Computerized scheduling, satellite communications and highly trained crews should make a rear-ender such as this one west of Blacksburg impossible. Sadly, the wreck is not unique. Three BNSF employees died in rear-end collision between a freight train and a maintenance rig in Iowa during the spring of 2011.
Also, my law firm colleagues and I handled a head on collision in Franklin, VA, that involved two CSX trains. Just like the recent rear-render, that crash never should have occurred, even if the trains had been operated by different railroad companies. Dispatchers control train movements, and there are many railroad rules relating to allowing only one train to pass into what is called a railroad block of track.
Whatever communications breakdown, equipment failure or human error set the stage for the Dublin wreck must be identified and corrected as soon as possible. Of all the dangers railroad workers face, getting into the equivalent of a seemingly random traffic accident should not be one of them.