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Amtrak employee alleges overcrowding in lawsuit over deadly crash

People stand outside a derailed Amtrak passenger train Monday, June 28, 2022, near Mendon, Missouri. Two people on the train died in the crash with a dump truck.
KMIZ
People stand outside a derailed Amtrak passenger train Monday, June 28, 2022, near Mendon, Missouri. Two people on the train died in the crash with a dump truck.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

An Amtrak employee is suing the train service, alleging in part that the Southwest Chief No. 4 train was overcrowded when it crashed in Chariton County in June, killing four people.

Carilyn White, a service attendant on the Chicago-to-L.A. Amtrak route, filed the lawsuit Thursday in Chariton County against Amtrak, railroad operator BNSF and MS Contracting, the owner of the truck that collided with the train near Mendon. Three people on the train that carried 275 passengers died. The driver of the truck was also killed in the crash.

A preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board last month said the derailment caused about $4 million in damage. The agency's investigation continues.

The filing is the latest in a series of lawsuits in state and federal courts seeking damages from the crash.

White, who was in the dining car when the train derailed, alleges in her petition that Amtrak "intentionally crowded" the train "beyond its safe capacity" and did not "enact and enforce" policies to prevent overcrowding. The lawsuit also says Amtrak operated the Southwest Chief at too high a speed for the conditions and did not coordinate with BNSF -- which maintains the tracks -- on inspection and maintenance.

The Southwest Chief was traveling at nearly 90 mph when it slammed into the dump truck owned by MS Contracting at a rural rail crossing without lights or audible warnings. Amtrak trains are authorized to travel up to 90 mph on that stretch of track.

The lawsuit says White suffered major physical and mental injuries in the crash.

The suit alleges BNSF did not adequately maintain the crossing and is seeking damages from the railroad company. White says the truck driver and his employer were negligent in not operating the truck, which was filled with stone, in a safe manner while crossing the tracks.

White is seeking a jury trial. No hearings have been scheduled.

Article Topic Follows: Chariton
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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.

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