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Author: Michael Ehline - Train Wrecks

The Peril of Train Accidents for Passengers and Crew

Hurt due to a negligent train operator or conductor? Contact Ehline Law now.

Train Crossing
Train on tracks

Train accidents, when they happen, are devastating of injuries and deaths that result. The types and causes of these impacts vary because of the different elements involved in each train accident today.

  • Training and attention of the train operator and the crew
  • The condition of the tracks
  • Correct operation of signals
  • Track obstructions
  • Collisions with vehicles
  • Crashes with other trains
  • Collisions with pedestrians
  • Derailments
  • Mechanical failure

This is a type of accident that brings an enormous amount of media attention and requires agencies other than the local police to investigate, to determine the cause of the crash and whether negligence played a role. There are not as many train accidents as there are motor vehicle accidents.

But if so, many more people become involved in a train accident than in a motor vehicle accident. The harm to the passengers and crew that can result from an accident may include fractures, broken bones, traumatic head injuries, neck and back injuries, burns, cuts, gashes and bruises.

Recent Train Mishaps.

Train crashes happen nationwide and for a variety of reasons. An example of how devastating train accidents can be is one that occurred west of Baltimore in Ellicott City, Maryland, in the summer of 2012. This accident claimed the lives of two college students who were not passengers on the train.

But they were sitting on the edge of a bridge when the train derailed. Nearly two dozen railroad cars flipped over when the train derailed, sending some of the cars rolling off the bridge and hitting cars below.

The two 19-year-old women got smothered to death by spilled coal. In fact, it covered the women. Elizabeth Conway Nass, a student at James Madison University in Virginia, and Rose Louese Mayr, a nursing student at the University of Delaware both passed away.

Non-Passenger Trains Still Kill.

Because this was not a passenger train, there were no passenger injuries. Neither train operator was injured. Witnesses stated they heard the train brakes squealing before hearing the noise they said was thunderous when the train cars derailed.

A crash that occurred in 2010 involved a train traveling from Chicago to Emeryville, Nevada, that collided with a big rig that had crashed through the gates. This had devastating results, with many dead and even more injured. According to Earl Weener of the National Transportation Safety Board, the truck was part of a three-truck convoy.

He said the driver saw the gates go down and the warning lights flash as the vehicles approached the crossing. The first driver continued to cross the railroad tracks, but the other two cars stopped. The collision, about 70 miles east of Reno, brought immediate reports of six people confirmed dead, many injured, and, at one point after the impact, 28 people missing.

One of the confirmed dead was the driver of the big rig, and another was the train conductor. So this illustrates the inevitable result of a collision between those great metal cars and other objects, even involving people in the vicinity of the train. A train colliding with a big rig is not uncommon. Every year at railroad crossings many collisions arise. But this remains especially true at unmarked crossings, or those with broken signals.

Deaths Follow Train Wrecks.

Very few train mishaps involve no deaths or injuries. But these accidents can still cause upheaval. For example, take the July 2011 freight train crash in California. In this case, half of the 62 cars of a Pacific Union freight train overturned. Fourteen of them carried hazardous materials.

But after initial reports, Union Pacific argued that it was only six cars hauling these materials. Chlorine was reported to be leaking according to a fire helicopter flying over the scene. And this resulted in the evacuation of nearby homes. One hundred homes or so had to get evacuated. Also, this is because of the toxic substances leaking from the overturned train cars. (More sources.)

Wrapping Up.

Train collisions are not like other types of vehicle accidents. Even when no passengers get injured or killed, the accident can still affect others. Also, this can leave many people injured, as well as families who have lost loved ones. And waiting for the National Transportation Safety Board to determine the cause of the train mishap is no fun either. Perhaps the most difficult to understand accident cause is negligence.

Commuter Train Safety Issues

train approaching barrier
A train barrier, warning traffic lights.

Commuter train mishaps happen more often than most people realize unless the accident is a major collision that garners nationwide media attention. Otherwise, the media attention is local, and other areas never hear about the crash. These often involve Metrolink trains that people depend on for transportation to and from work or other transportation needs.

So they believe when getting on this train, they are completely safe. Also, they never think about the possibility of a crash.

The truth is that when using public transportation, passengers are only as safe as the training of the person operating the train. All of this is based upon the maintenance performed on the engine and cars. It also depends on the condition of the railroad tracks, and the proper functioning of signals and safety gates.

So when a Metrolink commuter train is in a crash, it can harm passengers and cause emotional damage. But these trains are regularly filled. So this means in a mishap, the death toll and injuries can toll high. Trains can travel at high speeds. But some travel at a low speed in the train station. Or they are accelerating after stopping at a signal.

But either way, the weight involved is enough to kill pedestrians or motorists who are on the tracks. As a matter of fact, weight and speed are major factors when an impact with an object takes place. There are many examples of this. One of them is the Chatsworth Metrolink and Union Pacific freight train crash. This was considered one of the deadliest accidents. Human error or negligence was the cause of the wreck.

Chatsworth Metrolink Crash.

In 2008, in the Chatsworth district of Los Angeles, a Metrolink train ran a red light signal. And this was before entering a section of the track in which a Union Pacific freight train was traveling straight on the commuter train. In fact, this resulted in a head-on collision on a single track. This was where the train dispatcher had given the okay for the freight train to travel through.

Sadly, it caused 25 deaths and dozens of injuries. So this made it the deadliest Metrolink train accident in history. Also, many of the injured remained hospitalized for an extended period. This was due to the severity of their injuries. Also, it took even longer for the victims to recover from the emotional toll.

Other Passenger Commuter Train Mishaps.

In Antelope Valley, California, on April 2013, seven people were injured in Pacoima. This was when a metro train collided with a dump truck. The truck was crossing the tracks. In that case, it remained unclear if the crossing gate was working properly.

Here, there were 130 people aboard the train. Firefighters said five or more people were transported to area hospitals. They stated that five adults had minor back and other injuries.

Two Metro-North commuter trains collided in Bridgeport, Connecticut. So that time dozens were injured. Also, it remains one of the worst passenger train accidents since 2008.

Approximately 60 people went to hospitals. This was according to Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy. The governor said most of the victims sustained minor injuries. Also, it limited Amtrak trains using the same railroad tracks.


The National Transportation Safety Board investigated this crash. And just as it does with all train mishaps, it tried to determine what caused the collision, derailment or crash. Local authorities and the agency owning and operating the train took part in the investigation.

In any event, the harmed people may retain legal counsel. Professional train catastrophe attorneys will investigate the collision to help bolster the legal claim. This is important since the agencies involved in the initial investigation are not concerned with the personal injuries.

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Ehline Law Firm
Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC

633 W 5th St #2890
Los Angeles, CA 90071

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