“Track Issues” and “Shortcomings in Safety Culture” Reportedly Led to Deadly Train Accident
A new report from the National Transportation Safety Board has shed light on what may have caused the fatal 2021 train derailment in Montana. According to the NTSB, “poor track conditions” reportedly caused the deadly train accident in Joplin, Montana, that killed three passengers and injured dozens. The NTSB also found that BNSF Railway’s “lack of management of workloads for safety-related employees indicates a shortcoming in its safety culture” and the “track inspector’s workload likely prevented him from performing a timely walking inspection of the track.”
At Conner, Marr & Pinski, we continue to follow the devastating train accident that claimed the lives of several people in Montana on September 25, 2021. We understand the deep impact that this and other train derailments have had on communities across the country. We also take railroad employee rights seriously. If you have been involved or were affected by a train accident or unsafe railroad working conditions, contact our office to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
What Happened in the 2021 Amtrak Derailment in Montana?
In early July 2023, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released information about the deadly train derailment that claimed the lives of three people and injured 49 passengers. The accident, which occurred on September 25, 2021, at 3:56 pm, involved Amtrak Passenger Train 7. The train, called the Empire Builder, was carrying 149 passengers and 16 crew members at the time of the derailment.
The initial report indicated that there were several safety issues, including track conditions, that caused the accident. The track was owned and operated by BNSF Railway. Ultimately it was determined that factors such as worn rail, track misalignment, and subgrade instability led to the fatal crash that happened in Joplin, Montana. Multiple recommendations were made to prevent additional derailments caused by these same factors.
What Is Now Known About the Train Accident?
On July 27, 2023, the NTSB released a press release regarding the deadly incident. In the statement, the NTSB noted that track issues had caused the fatal derailment. As reported in their findings, the train derailed as it was taking a “right-hand curve on BNSF Railway main track.” Eight of the ten railcars on the train derailed, several of which derailed on their right side. The two locomotives, baggage car, and transition sleeper remained on the track.
The report found that the BNSF track was misaligned prior to the derailment. Other trains that traveled over the same track before the fatal accident were shown to roll and sway at the misalignment. It is believed that routine track inspection practices would have discovered this and other issues, potentially preventing the accident.
In addition to poor track conditions, the NTSB found that the window systems in several of the derailed railcars failed, resulting in several passengers being ejected from the train. The NTSB made multiple recommendations regarding this and other safety issues as a result of their investigation. If you are a railroad employee or passenger who has been injured in a train accident, you need to speak with a qualified attorney.
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