When a freight train slammed into a charter bus stuck on a railroad crossing in Biloxi, Mississippi on Tuesday, it added to the site’s deadly history. Four people on board the bus were killed, marking the third time since 1983 that people died at the crossing in a train collision.
Records obtained by Associated Press found 16 train accidents at the crossing reported since 1976, including fatal collisions in 1983 and 2003. In January 2017, a tractor trailer was trapped on the “hump” of the crossing and was hit by a locomotive, even though the driver ran up the tracks in an attempt to alert the train’s engineer.
In the fatal crash on Tuesday, a charter bus was carrying casino visitors, including many seniors. Over forty of the passengers were injured. Many required hours of extrication attempts, due to the massive damage to the bus caused by the collision. Prior to the impact, the bus was stranded on the central part of the crossing, apparently with its four wheels in the air. The driver of the bus was unable to move the bus before the CSX freight train hit. The driver may have ignored signs warning of low ground clearance at the crossing., The signs were placed to prevent drivers of trucks and buses from passing over the crossing. The crossing was located on a high and narrow embankment, raising the risk of vehicle stranding.
While railroad crossing accidents involving vehicles are rare, these accidents frequently cause severe injuries and death. There were 232 deaths at railroad crossings in the United States in 2013, 262 in 2014 and 235 in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. While these numbers are down dramatically from the 425 deaths recorded in 2000, they illustrate the real danger that some grade crossings pose to drivers. Over the past several years, there has been a growing trend of these accidents. The FRA has published a list of the ten most dangerous crossing. Amazingly, the Biloxi crossing where this tragedy occurred did not make the list.
A complex web of Federal and state laws governs the design and maintenance of railroad grade crossings. Some are owned and maintained by state-run or private organizations, while general rules for easements, access and signage are controlled at the Federal level. In cases where regulatory authority is unclear, dangerous grade crossings can remain untouched for decades, even as the death toll at those crossings rises. Rules regarding railroad crossing design and warning signals may be subject to Federal Pre-emption, a legal construct that may preclude claims for injury or death in certain circumstances.
Sheff Law has extensive experience representing the victims of train accident. We accept and consult on cases from anywhere in the United States. Victims or their family members may obtain a free consultation by contacting us online or calling us at 1-888-423-4477.
March 9th, 2017 | Posted in Blog