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Site of Southwest Chief accident had been recommended for grade-crossing improvements

By | June 28, 2022

NTSB team set to arrive to begin investigation into collision and derailment that killed three, injured dozens

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Aerial view of passenger train derailment
Aerial view of passenger train derailment
Three people were killed when the Southwest Chief hit a truck and derailed Monday near Mendon, Mo. (Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop B, via Twitter)

MENDON, Mo. — The location where Amtrak’s Southwest Chief hit a dump truck in a collision and derailment that killed three and injured dozens was on a list of grade crossings recommended for safety upgrades, the Kansas City Star reports.

The Monday afternoon accident involving eastbound train No. 4 led to the deaths of two people on board the train and the driver of the truck. The Associated Press reports more than 40 people were transported to hospitals for treatment.

The collision and derailment occurred at about 12:43 p.m. at an unprotected grade crossing for Porche Prairie Road in the small town of Mendon, about 85 miles northeast of Kansas City, derailing both locomotives and eight cars. An updated count from Amtrak says approximately 275 passengers and 12 crew members were on board.

The February report, part of the Missouri State Freight and Rail Plan, recommended warning lights and crossing gates for Porche Prairie Road, at an estimated cost of $400,000. Nearly  half of the approximately 3,800 grade crossings in Missouri are unprotected, the state Department of Transportation says.

A 14-person team from the National Transportation Safety Board, led by NTSB Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy, is slated to arrive at the accident scene today. Amtrak said it will “fully support” the NTSB’s investigation

In a Monday evening statement, Amtrak said it was “deeply saddened” to learn of the deaths from the accident. “Amtrak is working with local authorities to make sure those who are injured get medical care and everyone else receives services and transportation. We are grateful for the support from the local authorities who provided assistance and resources for our customers and employees.” Those seeking information on passengers aboard the train should call 1-800-523-9101.

As a result of the derailment and ongoing investigation, the westbound Southwest Chief scheduled to depart Chicago today will instead originate in Kansas City. Yesterday’s westbound train was cancelled. The eastbound Southwest Chief which departed Los Angeles on Sunday was terminated in Kansas City this morning, with passengers accommodated on other trains or buses for the remainder of their trip.

10 thoughts on “Site of Southwest Chief accident had been recommended for grade-crossing improvements

  1. This wasn’t the only AMTRAK fatal accident at an unmarked crossing this week. On Sunday a San Joaquin struck a car on the tracks near Brentwood.

  2. When I look at any pictures of the lead locomotive, of which are very few and distant, it appears there is no damage to the nose of the locomotive.
    So did the dump truck T-bone the lead loco? If so all the signage was probably ignored.
    Regardless a sad situation that did not need to happen.

    1. Of course, we are all speculating at this point, but the truck hitting the loco at the side makes more sense in wondering why the consist went on its side after the impact.

    2. When hearing about the accident I immediately figured two of the dead were the engine crew. Just read the three deaths on the train were all passengers. This fits in with Jim’s theory of the truck ramming the side of the train.

  3. George has a small point about the time on the crossing, however if the driver would have stopped and looked both ways he could spend all day shifting and driving over the crossing with no trains in sight.
    From the photo the driver would really have to turn his head to get a complete view but there are crossing all over the US like this.
    1,900 crossings at $400,000 plus is going to be costly for a lightly travelled road.
    Wonder what the vehicle count on this road is. What is the cost to add a stop sign to the cross buck pole if there isn’t one already.

    1. (Just an update to my previous comment and reply, to Mr. McClure, and to answer your question Daryl.) I just found more pictures and video of the accident site that confirms that there was “Stop” signs along with the Cross Bucks & “2 Tracks” signage at this crossing.

  4. The truck driver may have been used to freights approaching at 40 – 60 mph and miss-judged the time available. The high speed line in Michigan required four quadrant gates for 110 mph approval. Hopefully forward looking camera on the train will provide more information. Stopping before crossing the track would have placed him on the crossing longer than a continuous roll because of the time required to shift gears. The state knew of the problem and in my opinion more responsible. Any route with 90 mph trains needs automated warnings.

  5. Clearly a poor crossing from the angle and lack of signage. Does Missouri require a STOP sign at crossings without protection? In the end, the truck driver made an exceptionally poor choice and paid for it with his and others’ lives.

    1. Just a quick reply – “Unprotected” does not mean there is no signage. This was an “non-active” crossing, meaning it did not have lights or gates to protect the crossing. However, there were cross-bucks and either a Yield or Stop sign at this crossing from the pictures that I saw. This is very common on these lightly used rural gravel roads in Missouri. And yes, a very unfortunate and sad outcome to all those involved.

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