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Lawsuit following deadly Amtrak collision says county should have known crossing was treacherous

Amtrak derailment Mendon Missouri
Frank Morris
/
KCUR
The truck hit in the Amtrak collision is shown splayed across a steep railroad embankment.

The intersection where the speeding train collided with a lumbering truck has drawn complaints for years. Now the widow of the dump truck driver killed in the Amtrak collision in Missouri is suing a railroad inspector and the county where the collision occurred.

The widow of the dump truck driver killed in the Amtrak collision in Missouri on Monday is suing a railroad inspector and the county where the collision occurred.

The suit alleges that a supervisor for Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the railroad that owns and operates the tracks used by Amtrak, and Chariton County should have known the crossing was dangerous.

The train was traveling nearly 90 miles an hour when it struck a loaded dump truck in central Missouri. The collision and subsequent derailment killed three people on the train, Rachelle Cook and Kim Holsapple of De Soto, Kansas, and Binh Pham of Kansas City. Billy Barton II, who was driving the dump truck, was also killed. More than half of the 275 passengers on board the train were hospitalized.

The railroad tracks are several feet higher than the rural, gravel road at the intersection where the crash occurred. The tracks were partially obscured by brush and bisect the road at about a 45 degree angle. Barton approached the intersection from an angle that would have forced him to look over his shoulder to see the speeding train bearing down on the crossing.

According to the lawsuit, some 60 trains traverse the crossing daily. It alleges the intersection should have been marked by flashing lights and cross arms, rather than just a simple railroad crossing sign.

The Kansas City Star reported that a lawyer representing the family of Binh Pham is also preparing to file a lawsuit. Pham was said to be traveling on the train with a dozen family members.

I’ve been at KCUR almost 30 years, working partly for NPR and splitting my time between local and national reporting. I work to bring extra attention to people in the Midwest, my home state of Kansas and of course Kansas City. What I love about this job is having a license to talk to interesting people and then crafting radio stories around their voices. It’s a big responsibility to uphold the truth of those stories while condensing them for lots of other people listening to the radio, and I take it seriously. Email me at frank@kcur.org or find me on Twitter @FrankNewsman.
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