A dump truck driver thought he could outrun a speeding train.
The widow of a man killed when the truck he was driving was hit
by an Amtrak train this week has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
In the suit, Erin Barton alleges that the Missouri railroad
crossing where Billy Dean Barton II died was "ultra-hazardous,"
due in part to the defendants' failures to maintain the
The first of two defendants is Mariano Rodriguez, a manager in
the BNSF Railway's engineering department. Rodriguez is in
charge of ensuring "the safety, proper inspection and
maintenance" of railroad crossings like the one near Mendon, the
But the widow alleges that he failed to do so, citing the
crossing's "impaired 'sight triangles,'" an "excessively small
crossing angle," and other impairments, including "sloped
approaches, brush, trees and vegetation blocking a full view of
oncoming trains in some quadrants." She said "the surfaces of
the crossing were narrow, rough and poorly maintained."
Additionally, the crossing did not have "bells, gates or lights"
to warn vehicles of an approaching train — it only had
crossbucks or signs saying that the tracks were nearby, the suit
"These conditions at the crossing created an ultra-hazardous
crossing," the suit says, adding that the conditions had been
like that for years.
The suit cited the fact that it takes trains a significant
amount of time — perhaps up to a mile — to stop fully. "This
fact makes properly guarded, inspected and maintained crossing
critical for safety," it says.
Given these alleged safety concerns, Rodriguez "knew or should
have known that the Porche crossing posed a grave danger to the
public," the suit said.
On June 27, these failures culminated in the fatal collision and
derailment, the lawsuit alleges. Erin Barton's husband was
driving a dump truck through the crossing and "did not see or
hear the train coming with adequate warning to safely cross the
The crash killed him and three others on the train, which was
carrying nearly 300 people from Los Angeles to Chicago. Many
others were injured in the incident.
Erin Barton is seeking $25,000 and prejudgment interest for
costs incurred from filing the lawsuit.
She is also suing Chariton County, Missouri, where the crash
took place, for the same compensation. The lawsuit alleges that
the county failed its duty to properly design, inspect and
maintain its roads, including the approaches to the crossing. It
says the county violated several roadway standards as well.
Prior to the crash, residents had reported to the county's road
authority several issues at the crossing, the suit said.
Therefore, the suit alleges, the county was aware of the
problems, and its negligence "caused or directly contributed" to
This is the first reported lawsuit filed as a result of the
crash. More than 10 victims in the derailment, including the
family of a man who died, have retained lawyers "to represent
their interests," a separate law firm said in a statement to CBS
Sixteen National Transportation Safety Board investigators were
on scene to try and determine the cause of the crash, chair
Jennifer Homendy said Wednesday. They will download the train's
event recorder, and will examine the train's two forward facing
cameras as well as the dump truck's electronic control module.
She said the NTSB has been recommending "for a number of years"
that passive crossings, like the one near Mendon, be either
converted to active ones, closed or consolidated. She also
pointed out a 1998 NTSB study which recommended that vehicles
have technology that would alert drivers to trains in the area.
Amtrak said Monday night that it was "deeply saddened" to learn
of the deaths, adding that it's cooperating with local
On Thursday, Amtrak and the BNSF Railway company, which owns the
track on which the collision happened, sued Barton's employer
and the owner of the dump truck, MS Contracting, alleging it was
responsible for the crash and accusing the company of negligence.
The lawsuit claims Barton "failed to yield the right of way to
the approaching Amtrak Southwest Chief Train 4," resulting in
the collision. It deemed his actions "unsafe, careless and
reckless." It blamed the company for "negligently, carelessly,
and recklessly" failing to adequately train Barton and maintain
The crash injured and killed Amtrak employees and passengers,
significantly damaged property owned by the two companies, and
resulted in delays and service disruption, according to the suit.
Amtrak and BNSF reported more than $75,000 in damages from the
crash, and they are each seeking a payment of more than $75,000
in the lawsuit.
30 June, 2022
Years ago driving across the prairie farms of Illinois, I
watched some cars on a highway almost get hit at a crossing.
Back then, many were simply crossbucks on a pole. Wide open farm
fields where you could see in all directions for miles, yet they
target fixated on the highway and ignored the train approaching.
I don't know if they were trying to beat the train or simply
didn't see it, but the second car crossed with the locomotive
only about 25 feet from the car as it did. I was always amazed
at how people would risk their lives to save a couple of minutes
or be so oblivious to their surroundings.
30 June, 2022
Based on posted pictures, there was NO brush blocking any "sight
angles." The crossing has a STOP sign. It looks like it COULD
use some maintenance, but not enough to be a problem crossing.
Very FEW rural crossings have anything more than the crossed
boards signal, due to LACK OF TRAFFIC making in too expensive to
be practical. MOST rural crossings are sloped for drainage
reasons, just as the roadbed is higher than the surrounding land
for the same reason.
The main problem, obviously, was her husband, not paying
30 June, 2022
The railroads were there before the cars. Drivers Education
classes stress the importance of being aware and alert at
railroad crossings, marked or unmarked. We do not live in a
perfect world. Each must bear responsibility for their actions.