News & Reviews News Wire Southwest Chief was traveling at 87 mph at time of collision

Southwest Chief was traveling at 87 mph at time of collision

By David Lassen | June 29, 2022

| Last updated on February 24, 2024

Authorities release names of those killed; law firm says it is preparing to file suits

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Aerial view of locomotives damaged in derailment
The lead locomotive on the Southwest Chief shows the damage from Monday’s grade-crossing collision with a dump truck. The train was traveling 87 mph at the time of the collision, the NTSB says. Sol Tucker

MENDON, Mo. — The Southwest Chief was traveling at 87 mph — just under the track speed of 90 mph — when it struck a dump truck and derailed Monday in the accident that killed four people, including three passengers on board the Amtrak train.

National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Jennifer Homendy provided that information in a Wednesday press conference, saying the train was traveling 89 mph when it began sounding its horn a quarter-mile from the grade crossing where it struck the truck.

“We do not have concerns about mechanical issues,” Homendy said, as reported by the Washington Post. “We tested the brakes and there are no issues with the brakes.” Homendy said the steep grade to the grade crossing is of concern: “We have to look at the approach of this crossing. It’s very steep. There’s a lot resting on a driver to see a train at these crossings, particularly when there’s such a steep incline.”

In other developments Wednesday, the Missouri State Highway Patrol identified the four people killed in the collision and derailment, while a Chicago law firm is preparing to file lawsuits against Amtrak and the company that owned the dump truck.

KSHB-TV reports the three passengers who died were all from the Kansas City area: Rachelle Cook, 57, and Kim Holsapple, 56, both of De Soto, Kan., and Bihn Phan, 82, of Kansas City, Mo.

Also killed was the driver of the truck, Billy Barton II, 54, of Brookfield, Mo., which is about 15 miles from Mendon. Barton, Cook, and Holsapple were pronounced dead at the scene; Pham died after being transported to University Hospital in Columbia, Mo.

The Clifford Law Offices, which says it is handling 42 lawsuits over the Sept. 25, 2021, derailment of the Empire Builder in Montana [see “Seven suits filed …,” Trains News Wire, Oct. 6, 2021], said in a press release that a Kansas family injured in Monday’s accident “is among those who will be filing lawsuits.” Attorney Kristofer Riddle said the law firm “will conduct its own investigation into what occurred, but inevitably negligence is involved.”

22 thoughts on “Southwest Chief was traveling at 87 mph at time of collision

  1. We need to have a conversation about why Amtrak is running trains at 90MPH when it knows the conditions are not safe for it. These inadequate / dangerous crossing are well known .

  2. People who blame the lawyers forget that the waythe system is setup requires a suit for a victim to get compensation. Insurers, companies and the government never want to talk to individuals only to their lawyers.

  3. Nathaniel: Good point to provide safe coexistence of RR/vehicles.
    That was suggested to me by a UP Safety official after I contacted the FRA. To accomplish what he wanted, is a big burden on local road departments who are spread thin on other needed work. Especially when the intersection is not perpendicular.
    In my case, the safety official suggested, after seeing the next crossing (same danger) that had school bus traffic. He then said you need to contact the local school since they had a bus traverse a “Unsafe sight-line non perpendicular” grade crossing. That sure worked. UP at the two crossings increased the ROW clearance double the previous “normal” clearance on both very dangerous grade crossings.
    More details of my above comment are listed in comment (#6) of the article, “NTSB investigators gather information at site of Chief derailment”. By | June 29, 2022 endmrw0630221616

  4. Automatic warning devices need a minimum activation time of 20 seconds. It seems to me that a crossing that doesn’t have warning devices should have a sight distance that would provide a similar warning time. That means a half mile. But that also means the crossing needs to be level and perpendicular. Otherwise the crossing should be closed.

    1. Thems is fighting words for the nimbys living next door to the track. They howl like a banshee if they are forced to go 300 feet (one block) out of their way. Closing one crossing in rural areas requires a minimum of 2 miles, sometimes more.

  5. These companies/people never pay for their negligence the Sunset Ltd Bayou Conoute (sic) LA; CNO at Manteno IL trailer with rebar; CZ in NV hit by a gravel truck; even the recent Metra commuter death its always Amtrak or the RR that pays. The hillbilly’s who cause it are either broke or the company they work for claims minimal assets.

    1. Actually it’s the way our liability laws are set up, but that’ll never change as long as you have lawyers in Congress. I still contend the max payout should be $500.000 on a sliding scale based upon age, no lawsuits allowed in cases involving Amtrak. Go after the truck company if you want, but maximum allowed compensation would still be $500k.

  6. Let’s hear it for the troup of Boy Scouts onboard the train who sprung into action after the event occurred and started helping people.

    1. I think it’s Bayou Canot in Sugarland/Mobile Alabama. A very tragic accident resulted when a barge struck a bridge in an un-navigable body of water. At one time, this bridge was able to open for water traffic but had been what’s called “straight lined” by CSX. A home signal once guarded this bridge but when welded rail was placed across the bridge, it always showed clear unless a train was in the block ahead or the rails on the bridge had a gap or were broken. The barge knocked the bridge out of line but the welded rail never broke resulting in the clear signal and the eastbound Sunset hitting the bridge, plunging the two locomotives and several superliners into the water.
      This accident resulted in numerous fatalities including two Amtrak engineers. An Amtrak engineer who was friends of the deceased locomotive engineers makes an annual trip to the sight and lays flowers to honor the casualties.

  7. The locomotives and single-level baggage car stayed upright although derailed. All of the bilevel Superliners overturned on their sides which says something about the higher centre of gravity with those cars. When Amtrak’s southbound “Silver Star” collided with the lead locomotive of a parked freight train due to a switch that failed to be opened on the main track, the all-single-level passenger train stayed upright.

    1. This train was also traveling 87 MPH, on shouldered ballast, when the high level equipment had no track under it by the time it got there. Look at the track in front of the engine, and then the track behind the engines. It’s had for the Superliners to stay upright on the ROW when all is left is a misshaped embankment of ballast and 70 degree offset ties.

  8. Given the locomotives stayed upright after the collision, what could have caused the cars to roll over onto their sides?

    1. Well, the fact that they had progressively degraded and destroyed track structure below them didn’t help. The further the consist moved, the more track it tore up, and the further back in the consist, the more destroyed track debris they passed over.

  9. What is the track speed for Amtrak where the crash happen?

    I don’t understand why the train is go 87MPH that way overspeed of 79MPH

  10. This law firm should have a counter suit filed against them in this case. Fully the truck driver’s fault (RIP)

    1. Fully the truck driver’s fault. Passengers bought tickets from Amtrak. My undertsanding of th law is that Amtrak pays the claims. Then Amtrak goes after the trucking company and may or may not get anything.

    2. I’m surprised the ambulance chasers, uh, lawyers, didn’t name the owning railroad, too.
      oops, I’ve said too much…

    3. Common carrier trucking companies are required to maintain a 2 million dollar liability. Most trucking companies also have catastrophic coverage for bigger disasters.
      The insurance companies who provide that coverage also provide consulting services on how to communicate in catastrophic accidents.
      Rule1 don’t talk about blame, talk about the investigation.

  11. I am not surprised that lawyers are involved, especially the firm handling the Montana derailment and now the Missouri derailment.

    Ed Burns

    1. From Merriam-Webster:

      Ambulance Chaser (noun)

      Definition of ambulance chaser: a lawyer or lawyer’s agent who incites accident victims to sue for damages

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