NTSB Investigators Blame Truck Driver and Faulty Brakes for Last Year’s Fatal Train Crash in Nevada
By Richard Shapiro, Virginia Railroad Injury Attorney
The panel investigating the collision and derailment voted unanimously that issues with the truck, along with weakness in the walls of the train’s passenger cars contributed to the number of deaths and dozens of injuries that rustled from the crash at a rural crossing last June. The truck driver was killed along with the Amtrak train’s conductor and four passengers.
A federal investigation revealed that the truck driver failed to notice the train ahead of him because he was exhausted due to lack of consistent sleep. Investigators also mentioned that it was possible the driver of the 18-wheeler was checking messages on his cellphone at the time of the collision. The crossing’s warning lights were working properly at the time of the crash and the gate had been down and in place for 18 seconds before the accident, while the truck was still almost 1,000 feet away from the crossing, leaving the driver plenty of time to see the flashing lights.
The panel revealed that the truck driver appears to have hit his brakes about 300 feet from the tracks, but ended up skidding nearly the length of a football field into the side of the moving train. Had the brakes been in proper working order, the truck driver should have been able to stop within about 230 feet of braking. A member of the panel was clear while placing blame, saying that the accident would have been avoided if the truck driver had “applied his brakes 1.4 seconds sooner or if John Davis Trucking would have maintained the brakes as they should have been maintained.”
The semi-truck driver had been cited for 11 speeding violations in the past 10 years, but his employer, John Davis Trucking, only knew about less than half of them because they failed to perform a comprehensive background check. The panel issued a series of recommendations to help prevent other disasters like this from happening in the future. For one thing, commercial carriers ought to be required to document thorough background investigations into driver histories for the 10 years prior to their employment.
The Virginia Railroad Accident Lawyer’s Perspective:
As railroad wrongful death attorneys who have represented victims of railroad accidents for more than a quarter-century, we have seen firsthand the physical and emotional toll both rail workers and members of the public have paid when rail corporations, like CSX, Norfolk Southern or Amtrak make safety anything other than their top priority.
It’s tragic that this deadly Amtrak collision was entirely preventable. The six people never would have died had the driver of the truck acted appropriately or the company employing him had acted responsibly in maintaining the brakes on his truck. Hopefully the recommendations proposed by the NTSB are implemented and future passengers are spared the fate suffered by those on board the train in this case.
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About the Editors: The Virginia- and Carolina-based attorneys at Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton have long histories of representing railroad workers in FELA and other railroad injury cases and of helping victims of rail crossing accidents. Lawyers at our firm have served as chairmen of the railroad section of the American Association for Justice, the largest national victim’s injury attorney organization, and one of our attorneys wrote a major legal encyclopedia section on railroad safety litigation. Check out our railroad injury case results to see for yourself. Be sure to get your free reports about railroad injury, disease and wrongful death FELA cases: The Do’s and Don’ts When Injured at a Railroad — Yours FELA Rights and What Railroad Claim Agents Won’t Tell You (But You Must Know). Also, our railroad injury lawyers proudly donate to the Fallen Brother Fund.