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Regulators Investigating Fatal Amtrak Derailment in Chariton County

Federal regulators have opened an investigation into a fatal Amtrak derailment in northern Missouri that killed at least four victims and injured numerous others.

The incident occurred when several cars of an Amtrak train identified as the Southwest Chief Train 4 derailed on Monday afternoon following a collision with a dump truck at a crossing near Mendon, Missouri, roughly 100 miles northeast of Kansas City.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP), at least 150 passengers were transported to 10 area hospitals. At least four victims were killed, including three passengers and the truck driver.

The Southwest Chief had been traveling eastbound from Los Angeles to Chicago when it struck the rear of the dump truck in Chariton County. Amtrak officials stated there were 275 passengers and 12 crew members aboard.

Investigators Search for a Cause

On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced that it was examining events leading up to the crash. Evidence gathering will focus on things like mechanical safety, the train’s speed, how brakes were applied, and whether the horn was used.

NTSB investigations are a critical part of determining what led to major transportation accidents and whether they could have been prevented. These findings can lead to recommended safety improvements, proposals for new laws, and regulatory penalties that deter others from committing similar errors in the future.

For those who’ve suffered harm and losses in major railroad accidents, NTSB findings can also provide a starting point in the fight for justice and accountability – particularly if negligence is identified as a potential factor. While investigations are still ongoing, there are several potential causes worth exploring, including:

  • Operator / driver error or distraction
  • Mechanical failures or improper maintenance
  • Railway or roadway defects

In addition to these areas of focus, investigators will likely also pursue developing leads regarding the condition of the rail crossing at the time of the crash. This includes new information that the Chariton County commission had alerted state officials and the railroad company which owned the track roughly a month before the accident that overgrown brush near the crossing was obstructing drivers’ views.

As reported by The Kansas City Star, Chariton County Presiding Commissioner Evan Emmerich stated that the commission initially received a complaint from local residents about the visibility issues on May 23 and subsequently contacted MoDOT Railroad Safety by email, but received no response. On May 31, a week after the email, the commission called the BNSF Railway Roadmaster to reiterate its concerns. Per federal regulations, vehicles must have at least 250 feet of clear sightlines in each direction when stopped at a rail crossing.

As a firm that’s served the Midwest since 1949, our team at Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman is available to speak with victims and families who’d like more information about their rights and legal options – including the potential for bringing personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits. To speak with an attorney, call (816) 542-5999 or contact us online.