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Widow of dump truck driver in Amtrak crash files wrongful death lawsuit

MENDON, Mo. (KMIZ)

The widow of the dump truck driver killed Monday when an Amtrak train slammed into his vehicle at a Chariton County crossing is suing a track safety manager and the county government.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday by Erin Barton of Brookfield, Missouri, says the crossing where Billy Barton II died had a steep incline, poor visibility because of its angle and overgrown brush and no active devices to warn drivers. The petition filed in Chariton County court says Billy Barton didn't hear or see the train coming.

The lawsuit names Mariano Rodriguez of Higginsville, Missouri, a manager for Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the railroad company that's responsible for the tracks. It claims Rodriguez had a duty to implement safety improvements at the crossing.

The crossing at Porche Prairie Avenue near Mendon has a reputation among some locals as being a dangerous one. National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said at a news conference Wednesday that the crossing had a steep grade, which could have contributed to the crash, though investigators don't yet know for sure.

BNSF responded to ABC 17 News's request for comment on the lawsuit and they replied they do not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit also claims the Chariton County Road Authority was negligent in not improving the crossing.

The Amtrak train -- the Southwest Chief No. 4 -- was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago when the crash happened early Monday afternoon. The train slammed into the right rear side of the truck at 87 mph, Homendy said. The crossing did not have lights or bells to warn drivers of oncoming trains.

Amtrak trains are authorized to travel the tracks at up to 90 mph. The lawsuit says freight trains travel at 70 mph on the track.

Four people were killed -- three passengers and the truck driver. One of the passengers, Binh Phan, 82, was from Kansas City. Another 150 people on the train carrying about 275 passengers were injured.

Wednesday update on Amtrak crash

The presiding commissioner told The Associated Press that local officials have lobbied for improvements to the intersection. The Missouri Department of Transportation has documented the need for upgrades there.

Erin Barton is being represented by St. Louis law firm Groves Powers LLC.

Article Topic Follows: Transportation
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Matthew Sanders

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

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