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Amtrak, BNSF sue dump truck driver’s company in fatal train crash and derailment

People leave Amtrak train cars after a derailment in Chariton County on Monday, June 27, 2022.
Courtesy Amanda Diehl Drinkard
People leave Amtrak train cars after a derailment in Chariton County on Monday, June 27, 2022.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Amtrak and railroad company Burlington Northern Santa Fe have sued the company that employed a dump truck driver killed in a train crash this week in Chariton County.

The lawsuit against MS Contracting of Brookfield, Missouri, was filed Thursday in federal court. It alleges the dump truck driver, Billy Barton II, was negligent in crossing the tracks on Porche Prairie Avenue near Mendon when the Amtrak train was coming. Federal investigators said this week that the train was traveling at nearly 90 mph at the time of the crash.

The companies are suing to recoup losses connected to the crash, including injuries to passengers and crew and damage to the tracks and the train. Eight cars and two locomotives derailed when the Southwest Chief No. 4 train traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago slammed into the dump truck Monday.

The train carried 289 passengers and crew, according to the lawsuit. Amtrak said this week that about 150 people were injured. Three passengers and Barton died in the crash.

Meanwhile, Barton's widow is suing a manager for BNSF, which maintains the tracks, and Chariton County, alleging they were negligent in maintaining safe conditions at the crossing. The crossing did not have lights or audible warnings to alert drivers when trains are approaching. Federal investigators have also said the crossing has a steep grade and possible visibility issues and local residents and officials lobbied the state for improvements at the crossing.

Amtrak is authorized to go 90 mph in the area and freight trains go 70 mph, according to the Barton wrongful death lawsuit. Several issues at the crossing also make it hard to see oncoming trains, the lawsuit claims.

However, the lawsuit filed by Amtrak and BNSF places the blame for the crash on Barton and his employer, not on the lack of safety at the crossing. The truck failed to stop at the crossing, running a stop sign there, the suit claims. The suit also claims the truck didn't have enough ground clearance to cross the tracks and was going too fast to stop in time.

Aerial view of crash site, Friday, July 1, 2022.

"Amtrak incurred labor costs, suffered delays and disruption to its service, and has been or will be
subjected to other economic and financial losses due to the collision, including but not limited to
the costs of making alternative travel arrangements for its passengers and crew, medical and related
expenses for its passengers and crew, the costs of responding to the collision, and damages
resulting from the loss of use of its equipment," the lawsuit claims.

BNSF has incurred costs from track repairs, according to the lawsuit.

A call to MS Contracting was not answered Friday morning.

A hearing in the case is set for July 22.

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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