Train accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report of two recent train derailments in the New England area, one in Maryland and the other in Connecticut. These collisions come after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced that the nation’s trains are safer than ever.
The more recent of the two collisions, the Maryland derailment, occurred on Tuesday, May 28, 2013, when a CSX freight train collided with a commercial truck at a private crossing near Baltimore. The truck driver was critically injured and the train ultimately exploded, which witnesses say they could feel from blocks away, similar to an earthquake.
CSX officials affirm that there were no toxic chemicals on the train that could be inhaled by anyone in the surrounding community. Several buildings were, however, damaged in the derailment, and as a precaution, between 60 and 70 local residents were asked to evacuate.
Although the NTSB send teams in to investigate, the cause of the derailment was not initially clear. Videos from CNN show at least five of the freight train’s cars off the track and white and black smoking rising from the wreckage. Witnesses said the first thing they saw were two or three train cars overturned on their sides sliding down the track, followed by a deafening explosion.
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The second explosion occurred less than a week earlier, on May 23, in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Of the 70 injured, five people were brought to the hospital after the collision, one in critical condition. The commuter trains were traveling between New York to New Haven, CT, during rush hour at the time of the crash, which is suspected to have been caused by a broken rail. The stretch of track carries more than 30,000 passengers every day between the two metro areas.
The NTSB arrived at the scene the same day to investigate the wreckage, which involved two Metro-North trains. The investigative group examined photos, witness statements, Metro-North employees, mechanical aspects of the tains, and reports and records, among other data pertaining to the collision.
They found that, in April 2013, there was maintenance work performed on the section of the track where the wreck occurred. Records revealed that a bar used to join two sections of the rail together was cracked and repaired by Metro-North employees. Other sections of the track were taken as samples and shipped to NTSB laboratories for examination.
It seems that the eastbound train derailed, stopped, and was hit about 20 second later by the westbound train. The conductor of the westbound train did apply the emergency breaks in the moments before the collision. Both tracks will need to be repaired before they can be reopened.
Debris from the wreckage littered about 200 yards surrounding the crash site, and much of the insides of the cars were completely shattered. Both trains were traveling at about 70 miles per hour in the moments before the crash.
Despite these high-profile collisions, derailments throughout the country are steadily declining: train accidents fell 43% between 2003 and 2012, and the number of incidents at railroad crossings decreased by 34%. This is the result of new investments by railroads in equipment and track materials, employee training, and technological tools that can detect problems before derailment.
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2012 was reportedly the safest year for the railroad industry on record, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. Many of the country’s major freight railroads are planning to invest about $13 billion in maintenance and upgrades for the network. Such work includes replacing railroad ties and adding new tracks to accommodate heavier freights.
Since the mid-1990s, railways have increasingly relied on technological advances to identify problems before any damaging events, such as derailments, can occur. For example, all major freight railroads now have sensors along their lines that can hear flat spots developing on the wheels of cars. Companies can then replace the wearing wheels before they break or damage the rails.
Train accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm are currently evaluating cases involving catastrophic railway injuries. Railroad companies are held to the highest standard of liability for train accidents, which is why it is critical you contact a skilled railway attorney as soon as possible after suffering an injury.