US: Amtrak sues cattle feeder after train derailment

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

Amtrak and BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) are suing a Kansas-based cattle feeding facility for allegedly causing a passenger train derailment.

In the lawsuit, filed in US District Court for the District of Kansas, the transportation firms allege a Cimarron Crossing Feeders LLC truck carrying cattle feed caused train track damage that led to a train derailment in mid-March.

The incident caused 28 passengers to be taken to the hospital after eight passenger cars of a 10-car train derailed in Cimarron, Kansas, according to case documents. The train was a cross-country passenger train operated by Amtrak and the rail lines where the incident occurred were owned by BNSF.

“Neither Amtrak nor BNSF received prior notice that the Cimarron truck had struck and damaged the railroad roadbed and track structure,”​ noted the court filing. Both companies are seeking damages beyond $75,000, legal costs and a jury trial.

Incident report

The lawsuit was filed last week a few days after a preliminary repor​t​ from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was released. The report noted damage to the railroad tracks along with fresh tire tracks and cattle feed residue at the site of the altered track.

“National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators observed that the railroad ties and tracks at mile post 373.07 were out of their normal positions and established the point of derailment as 25 feet beyond this location,”​  wrote the NTSB report authors.

The publication linked the tire tracks to a damaged truck at a feedlot owned by Cimarron. The truck was used to haul the cattle feed product found at the incident site, according to the report. No probable cause was given in the report.

A full NTSB investigation can take a year to 18 months to complete, an NTSB spokesperson told FeedNavigator. The current preliminary report marks an early stage in the ongoing investigation, and it will likely be some time before probable cause has been established, he said.

Lawsuit details

In the lawsuit filing, the transportation companies claimed, on March 13 and 14, Cimarron employees loaded a truck with grain a Cimarron’s cattle feeding facility, that truck belonged to the company and while filling the vehicle employees left it alone, out of gear and with no brake engaged.

“The unattended truck then rolled away from the Cimarron facility downhill to the south, crossed over US Highway 50 and struck the side of the BNSF railroad roadbed and track structure causing the truck to come to a rest on the BNSF railroad right-of-way,”​ according to court documents. “The truck impacted the railroad roadbed and track structure with such force that it caused physical damage to the railroad roadbed and track structure that resulted in a displacement of the railroad tracks of over one foot.”

Cimarron ‘agents, officers, or employees’​ removed the truck without contacting BNSF, said the rail companies in the lawsuit. Cimarron did not alert Amtrak, BNSF, law enforcement or another agency to inform them what had happened.

“Cimarron and its agents, officers, or employees knew or should have known that the truck caused damage to the railroad roadbed and track structure and, consequently, that the damaged condition of the railroad roadbed and track structure posed a danger for trains operating on the tracks as well as the passengers and crew about the trains,”​ according to court documents.

By allowing the truck to strike the rails and failing to report the incident, Cimarron was negligent in its responsibility and that recklessness caused the derailment of the train, alleged the plaintiffs.

Both Amtrak and BNSF claimed damages in excess of $75,000 as a result of the actions of Cimarron.

Cimarron’s lawyer did not respond to our request for comment prior to publication.

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